October’s Cultural Amnesia

With Halloween fast approaching, it is time for the annual cultural amnesia to resurface. The first story I saw this week was the one about the white teacher in North Carolina who donned blackface to a Halloween party so that he would look more like Kanye West.

kanyeHis apology was appropriate and seemingly heartfelt, so his school district decided not to take disciplinary action.

Then there was the story about this teenager who wanted to be Nicki Minaji.

1492607196008748325She took down her twitter page pretty quickly after this madness.

Also this week, I encountered this story about two girls who said that their inner ni**er came out when they decided to pose while picking cotton,

cottonand an image of two girls celebrating their senior year with tshirts that read “N16GA WE MADE IT!”

tshirtSo I ask you, what is it about the month of October that makes people completely lose their minds?!  But I guess that question presupposes that they had logical, rational, knowledgeable minds to begin with.  Every year, I am shocked at the level of – I don’t know if it’s naivete or stupidity – but I’m shocked by it every year.  And then I wonder why I’m so shocked.

Whenever I see someone in blackface, a reel of Al Jolson singing “Swanee” or “Mammy” starts playing in my head; the originator of cultural appropriation.  I see white people thinking that it is the funniest and most entertaining thing they’ve ever seen.   The sight of cotton plants makes me think of all of the whippings my ancestors endured.  The use of the “N” word makes me feel like someone spit in my face.

I get angry.  I get upset.  I feel hurt.  I feel tired.

You would think that the frequent occurrence of such behavior would desensitize me to all those feelings; that I would just be able to shrug it off and move on, but I can’t.   Every time something like this happens I try to figure out why this still happens.  Is it because of the strong level of racism that still exists in this country?  Probably.  Is it because the younger generation has no idea about the history of blackface or the “N” word?  Maybe.  Or do they just not care?

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