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Entries in february (2)


Black History Month: Debunking the 10 biggest myths about Black History (by

February is here, which means that it's Black History Month. Black history is an integral part of U.S. history, with African Americans making important contributions to the lifeblood of this country in all fields of endeavor. But there are many misconceptions and mischaracterizations when it comes to the public's general understanding of black history. They say that the truth will make you free. Well, here at theGrio, we thought we'd kick off February the right way by debunking the 10 biggest myths about black history.

1. The Civil War was not fought over slavery

If you want to know whether the Civil War was fought over slavery, just read the words of Alexander Stephens, vice president of the Confederate States of America in 1861:

The prevailing ideas entertained by...most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically.... Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error...Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery -- subordination to the superior race -- is his natural and normal condition.

Most historians agree that slavery was one of the primary issues leading to the Civil War. South Carolina seceded from the Union because of the clash between slave states and free states over the expansion of slavery. The Republican Party, then a new political party, made the fight against slavery in U.S. territories a key issue.

Historical revisionists have tried to whitewash history and improve the image of the Old South by eliminating slavery from the mix. And groups such as the Sons of Confederate Veteransinsist the war was fought over self-governance and states' rights. The war was about states' rights, the right of Southern states to own black people.

2. The civil rights movement was inherently Communist

Martin Luther King's inspiration for his philosophy of nonviolence and strategy of civil disobedience came from Mahatma Gandhi. The civil rights movement was not inspired by Communist beliefs or rhetoric, but the two biggest foes of the civil rights movement -- FBI chiefJ. Edgar Hoover and the Klu Klux Klan -- were fervently anti-Communist and characterized the civil rights workers as such.

It was the middle of the Cold War, and Hoover investigated any group that adopted the similar positions on civil liberties, racism, economic and peace as the Communist Party. Hoover thought the movement was a target of Communist infiltration, which is why his COINTELPROprogram went after so-called subversive causes deemed Communist or socialist -- including theNAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Black Panther Party and others.

3. The modern Democratic Party is still the party of the Klu Klux Klan

During the era of Jim Crow segregation, the Democratic Party ruled the South, and their reign of terror was made successful thanks to groups like the Klan, which provided the muscle that kept black people down, subordinated and 'in their place'. As historian Eric Foner noted in Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, "In effect, the Klan was a military force serving the interests of the Democratic party, the planter class, and all those who desired restoration of white supremacy."

Meanwhile, the Republican Party was a diverse party, a true "big tent" with liberals and moderates in their ranks. Following the Civil War during Reconstruction, blacks were overwhelmingly Republican. Even President Eisenhower received 39 percent of the black vote in 1956, while Nixon won 32 percent of the black vote in his loss against Kennedy. Moreover, greater majorities of Republican lawmakers voted for the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, the landmark civil rights legislation of 1964 and 1965. In fact, Democrats and Republicans outside of the South approved the bills in the face of a filibuster from Southern Democrats.

Things began to change in the 1960s, when Barry Goldwater ran for president in 1964, and Southern conservatives began to take over the GOP by appealing to white Southern resentment over civil rights. As a result of a Southern Strategy based on states' rights, white Democrats flocked to the Republicans. In today's South, the Republican Party is a mostly white conservative party, and the Democratic Party is disproportionately African-American. The parties switched places.

4. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican, and would today be aligned with conservatives

Conservatives point to Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech -- in which he said he wanted his four children to be judged not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character -- as proof that King opposed affirmative action and was a conservative Republican. But that is wishful thinking. First of all, the Republican Party of King's days was quite different from the party of today. Although King's father was a lifelong Republican, which made sense since the Democrats supported segregation, this does not mean the son was a Republican. Second, as PolitiFact notes, Dr. King was not a Republican, and historians and Martin Luther King III agree there is no proof of it.

In fact King spoke out passionately in opposition to conservative GOP 1964 nominee for the presidency, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater. King said of Goldwater:

While I had followed a policy of not endorsing political candidates, I felt that the prospect of Senator Goldwater being President of the United States so threatened the health, morality, and survival of our nation, that I could not in good conscience fail to take a stand against what he represented.

King also wanted to spend billions of dollars to fight poverty and was vilified for his stance against the Vietnam War. And he fought with striking Memphis sanitation workers when he was assassinated. He also said that America "must undergo a radical revolution of values" and "must rapidly begin the shift from a 'thing-oriented' society to a 'person-oriented' society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered." That doesn't sound very conservative. Today's conservatives would likely brand him a socialist.

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NEW POEM: Being a Poet During Black History Month

To the college student who asked me if my poetry was gonna educate her on Black History...

Should she rearrange her schedule to see me speak/ Would my quotes be black studies term-paper quality/ I mean, I am performing in February/ What else could I be speaking about?/ I didn't mean to confuse you/ I know my videos on youtube aren't exactly Black Panther friendly/ You're right someone could mistake me for ignoring my ancestors' history/ I haven't complained about educational inequality/ I didn't explain why 60% of the prison population has Africa in their veins/ Haven't re-accounted the 2010 news story where the Texas Board of Ed state that textbooks should be changed to say "Africans were brought here to HELP American society," without mentioning that they were enslaved/ I guess this is when the/ statistic should come to mind/ that Blacks receive longer sentences and spend more jail time/ than Whites with similar backgrounds who committed the same crimes/ I guess my poetry lines and rhymes aren't "melanated" just right/ I made the mistake of thinking that telling tales as a Black woman in America/ meant I was telling the Black history of my life./ Because this month isn't just about slavery/ We're still fighting for equality and for the right to tell our stories today/ See maybe, you assumed I'd educate you in the traditional way/ Teach facts and stats that you'll misquote or forget once you receive your final grade/ Like classical musicians versus Hip Hoppers/ you've made the fatal mistake/ of thinking a new generation's experience isn't worth as much as the ones of those people in graves/ I don't incorporate everything I know about my people's past/ Maybe that should change./ Maybe you're right...

I just remember the time when one late night/ on a college radio station phone line/ I was told "You niggers need to get off-air, cause no one wants to hear that jungle music."/ This was in 2005./ Remember hearing my shadowed, deep deep chocolate cousin complimented with the words "You're pretty...for a dark skinned girl."/ Grew up in an educated home/ went to a high school where the kids my skin tone called me Oreo for using words like ecstatic and sarcastic/ Hung with girls who thought poppin like they do in rap videos meant they were grown/ I've only known a handful of Black families where both a mommy and daddy lived in one home/ including my own/ Rode the train with boys who wear their pants like their self-esteem/ Really really low/ Who don't know that trend came from prisoners who weren't allowed to wear belts/ I'm the product of whippings from rolls of wallpaper and "licks" from belts/ cause to my mom, "Timeouts were for White kids"/ I watch friends around me struggle with the idea that they could better them self/ Who stay in abusive relationships cause they don't know anything else/ Scared to leave the hood because they've never seen anywhere else/ Condemned for not trying harder when they've never received sincere help/ America hands minorities their destiny like snotty tissues/ You wonder why my people have issues/ If you don't see how your race effects you on a day-to-day/ you must exist on a different plane/ because to quote Martin Luther King's saying, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere"/ so you must be ignoring the pain/ You must not have heard about Oscar Grant, Kathryn Johnston, and a host of other untold names/ You must not have known anyone stopped by cops and told their expensive car couldn't be theres even though the title bears their name/ You must never have seen skin lightening creme sold in the ethnic section in a Duane Reade/ Or Black woman who's scared for anyone to see her without her hazel contacts or long, straight hair weave/ Met any kids who believe that the only way to get rich as a Black man is to play sports, rap, or sell weed./ Obama is just one person to them/ how do you teach them better when the majority of minorities around them are in poverty?/ Heard folk say, "Just play your cards right, and you'll make it" even though it's shady as hell the way the cards are dealt/ Even still my skin affects me./ Recently an A&R from a major label said "Shanelle is awesome, but she's not industry-beauty."/ I've watched girls with less talent than me get put on instantly for their mixed ethnicity/ genetical ambiguity/ tall, light eyed, near White-skin and skinny/ a lot less curvy than me/ They call it "marketability"/ Don't play the Jennifer Hudson & Beyonce card/ Look at the ads and commercials and count the brown skinned girls who look like me/ Count the Grammy and Academy award winners/ Count the number of blacks on TV/ Shoot, count the amount of black performers that get booked on the average college campus other than in February/ I'm grateful for the opportunity/ but I don't need anyone telling me that it's my job to give a rundown on being a descendant of slavery/ to be the token negro displaying my reality TV/ Get off Facebook and look around/ We're in an age of technology and diversity/ I speak stories that affect my audience universally/ Don't you think it's deplorable that you'll only support me if I can teach you what it means to be Black?/ No one taught me how to be this ethnicity/ I just am/ and I'm blessed to be able to be on a stage in front of you because 30 years ago, if you asked a Black Woman to speak at the average non-Colored venue/ they'd say "Thanks, but I can't."/ This month celebrates the African American past, present, and what's to be./ I like to think that I show others our similarities/ I hope that through my performance you'll see/ a human being with unique experiences that relate to her race, gender, and geography/ more than just a skin tone/ if that's not enough for you/ then maybe you should just stay home.