Know Your History (and Know Yourself)

First, I want to make fun of myself for doing something that I recently made fun of other people for doing.  Someone (probably a blogger) pointed out that it’s weird that, for Black History Month, two people prominently talked about are MLK and Lincoln.  A joke was made, something to the effect of, “Wow, white people can’t even bring themselves to talk about two Black people for Black History Month.  They just *have* to throw in a white person.”  I had a good laugh at the expense of those pathetic, clueless white people.

And then I basically went and did the same thing.

I meant for this post to be about Black History Month and feature a bunch of awesome women in history…but for some reason, at the very top, I was talking about and showcasing a white dude.  Thankfully I caught that before I hit publish.  But seriously, not cool, me.*

Okay here’s the post:

For those of us who know why we have Black History Month, I want to share some stories of people I’ve come across on the blog Cool Chicks from History

Mae Jemison – “A chemical engineer, physician, and former Peace Corp volunteer, Mae Jemison was inspired by Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura to join NASA in 1987.  On September 12, 1992 she became the first black woman in space.”

“When I’m asked about the relevance to Black people of what I do, I take that as an affront. It presupposes that Black people have never been involved in exploring the heavens, but this is not so. Ancient African empires — Mali, Songhai, Egypt — had scientists, astronomers. The fact is that space and its resources belong to all of us, not to any one group.” – Mae Jemison

More women after the jump!

Bessie Coleman – “(1892-1926) was the first African American woman to earn an aviator’s license.  Unable to find anyone willing to train a black woman to fly in the US, Bessie learned French so that she could learn to fly in France.  She was the first American of any race or gender to earn an international pilot’s license.”

Sarah Loguen Fraser, M.D. – “Sarah was born to a former slave turned conductor of the Underground Railroad in 1855.  Sarah decided to become a physician after seeing a young boy pinned beneath a wagon”

I will never, never see a human being in need of aid again and not be able to help. – Sarah Loguen Fraser

Women Being Awesome and Protesting – Tallahassee, 1963. “Some of the 220 black students facing charges of contempt for demonstrating against segregated movie theaters.”

And finally, if you find yourself asking, “Wait, if there is a Black History Month, why is there no White History Month?” here is a token white dude to break it down for you.

The video links to this article, which looks interesting (haven’t read over all of it):
28 Common Racist Attitudes & Behaviors that Indicate A Detour or Wrong Turn into White Guilt, Denial, or Defensiveness

*I thought it would be worthwhile to point out the screw up anyway, because I think it’s important to recognize the ways that our concepts of “equality” and “fairness” get shaped by our social background. For instance, that’s weird that it took me a while to realize having the picture of a white dude at the top of a post about Black women was messed up.  Something similar happened last week when I was watching Up with Chris Hayes and he did an entire episode on feminism and the women’s movement.  Normally I love the panels he brings on his show, but I found myself wondering, “I kind of wish he had found a token dude to throw into this panel of four women, just because I know that people who are already skeptical of feminism might view this panel as skewed.”  But then it hit me: that’s really, really messed up, since how many flipping new shows hold panels with four men and even I only sometimes bat an eye at that?  Taking out white people and/or men for a moment in time does not skew ANYTHING.  Giving voice to and putting the spotlight on people who have been systematically silenced and made invisible is not bias.  It is correcting for my bias.  And it has little chance of ‘over-correcting.’  This is something for me to remember.

5 thoughts on “Know Your History (and Know Yourself)

  1. The astronaut’s name is Mae Jemison, not Mae Jenson. For a second there I was confused as to why my Google searches weren’t turning up any results.

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