BHM and Being Invisible in February

photo by Mana Amir

We’re halfway through BHM and it has been everything but a celebration. From the ongoing divisive antics of a petty president to the embattled leadership at the highest state level wearing blackface as a party favor to the continuing collective silence on the pervasiveness of police brutality, I don’t feel my heritage is very much celebrated. If it is called out in any way, it seems to be more of a prop to promote a personal agenda (Kamala and Corey, I’m side-eyeing you).

Pardon my assumption. There is a chance you have no idea what BHM is. BHM is the politically correct, corporate-adopted acronym for Black History Month. The use of such a cipher isn’t for the sake of preserving syllable efficiency. Its use is allegedly to be less offensive to white onlookers who would wonder why we need such an observation in 2019 in the first place. I mean didn’t we level the playing field with Barack Obama?

Actually, no.

Black History Month in 2019 remains very necessary because we still have a large number of state-sponsored institutions that see fit to exclude the contributions and influence that Black people have had on the nation and the world. If all you know about Black heritage is Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and slavery, then you are in a state of willful ignorance. We are so much more than that.

What seems to be at play instead is to simply act as we don’t exist; to treat us as invisible except when it’s cool move like us, run like us and “fake” look like us, all the while hating us. But we are not invisible. We are quite distinguishable, intelligent, influential, innovative and prevalent. There is more to us than “some balling and some dancing.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” This came after learning of six years of enthusiastic celebration throughout the country among many educational institutions and community centers.

And here we are in 2019. Black History Month is not just for Black people to observe. It’s for all American people to retrieve those figurative pages that have been torn from our history books. Black people’s culture and contributions are very much ingrained in the fabric of this nation.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison is one of my favorite books of all time. The novel, published in 1952, is a social and intellectual piece about the issues facing Blacks which include identity and government. It is on the Modern Library List of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century and if you’re looking for something appropriate to read to commemorate this month, this is an excellent one to consider. The preface leads with the following quote…

“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.”
― Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Published by kenn

author. developer. illustrator. Renaissance man.