Monday, February 9, 2009

Cotton Picking Day

When I wrote in an earlier post on why I take issue with black history month, I believe that I ruffled a few feathers.  I know that this is a sensitive subject matter however, I must reiterate my original point; rather than making black history important, black history month is reductive and it turns  all Africans of the Diaspora into “others”..

As a black woman, I take black history very seriously and as a mother of two half black children the passing on of our achievements as a way to inspire the young means a great deal to me.  As I stated earlier, though this month is meant to uplift blacks, in the end we often are often mocked, while in the process our struggles are delegitimized.

I was not at all surprised to come across an article in the clarionledger detailing a less than positive celebration of Black History Month.  The students of Lillie Burney Elementary were invited to dress as slaves in celebration of …you guessed Black History month.  To add insult to injury, the day was officially named cotton picking day.  Great way to teach children about the horrors of slavery – dressing up as slaves. 

This event is so special that kids get charged a small fee to be able to mock the millions who lived through the humiliation and human degradation that was slavery.  Don’t get too upset though, you can all rest a little easier knowing that the money that is raised goes towards charities or school fundraisers.  I wonder if instead of the national anthem, that day the students will be taught to sing Pick a Bale of Cotton.

Gonna jump down
Spin around
Pick a bale of cotton
Gonna jump down
Spin around
Pick a bale a day
Gonna jump down
Spin around
Pick a bale of cotton
Gonna jump down
Spin around
Pick a bale a day
Oh, lordy
Pick a bale of cotton
Oh, lordy
Pick a bale a day
Oh, lordy
Pick a bale of cotton
Oh, lordy
Pick a bale a day
I said
Me and my buddy gonna pick a bale of cotton
Now
Me and my buddy gonna pick a bale a day
I said
Me and my buddy gonna pick a bale of cotton
Now
Me and my buddy gonna pick a bale a day
Oh, lordy
Pick a bale of cotton
Oh, lordy
Pick a bale a day
Oh, lordy
Pick a bale of cotton
Oh, lordy
Pick a bale a day

According to the article, the principle could not be reached for comment..big fucking surprise. No problem belittling POC until your sorry ass gets called out on it.  How the hell could anyone even conceive of this idea, without realizing how demeaning it was.  This is right up there with the binding of a young girl to teach her class about the middle passage.

Slavery is not something you can ever simulate and treating it like its casual Friday infers that it was not damaging.  Many whites would love blacks to forget about the horrors of slavery but the fact remains that much of our current day living conditions exist because  our ancestors were enslaved. Our manual labour created the wealth of the western world and we have nothing to show for it except disproportionate rates of poverty, high drop rates, over representation in prisons, high teen pregnancy rates,  and alarming HIV/AIDS statistics.  Turning it into “dress up day” not only  dishonours those that lived and died in slavery, but all the blacks in North America that continue to battle against racism.

Incidents like this only make my conviction to teach my child about his history throughout the year that much stronger.  Imagine sending your children off to a school that your tax dollars support, only to have them pay for the honour of being mocked.  This is exactly why people of the African Diaspora need to demand that our history be taught year round.  We are not some “special subject” to be trotted out once a year to “prove” how inclusive you can be.


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