Black History Month was always a pretty depressing few weeks of school. Learning about the struggle my people faced — and still face — in America and across the world was often agonizingly bleak. Of course, black children need to know where they’ve come from and what they’ve overcome to be able to better celebrate where they’re headed, and the people of the United States need to remember their treatment of black Americans to ensure we don’t have a repeat, but the way we were taught to think of Black History Month in the past left little room for hope of modern-day success. The very nature of condensing the history of an entire people into a month was limiting.
You can see the failure of a confined “month” in the fact that my school’s Black History Month left off the history of civilized African nations and trailed off by the 1970s, after the Civil Rights Movement. The kingdom of Kush? The Songhai Empire? There just wasn’t time for it all. Now, in 2018, I wonder if history was never the point. Or at least not the whole point. The past is taking a back seat to the present, as people around the nation eagerly celebrate black excellence.
Black. Excellence. Nice ring to it, right? The term is not one of superiority over anyone, rather it is one of pride, change, and relief that black people are finally being recognized and rewarded for their contributions to the United States and to the world, in general. As a mainstream term, it’s also relatively new. It’s broader than “black history.” It fits the culture better. But it’s more than just a hashtag or a catchphrase. “Black excellence” is about the current state of black people who are enjoying massive success across business, culture, and politics. Because while obstacles still remain, there’s no denying that black people, resilient as ever, are not only persevering (in spite of continued racism), but we are absolutely thriving in the face of persistent adversity.
Let’s be real, the last election cycle was a blow to the notion that America was moving forward in their thinking about race relations. While the president may not have blatantly made racist and discriminatory remarks about black people, several of his allies had made very racially-charged statements. Members of his cabinet had discriminatory voting records and/or pasts flecked with racially-charged incidents. Ultimately, it left people wondering whether Trump, himself, co-signed those sentiments.
For many black people in major cities, the Charlottesville riots were more a situation of a girlfriend who suspected she was getting cheated on then finally caught her lover in the act than it was a shock: We figured racism was alive and well; now we had proof. But rather than taking on the victim mentality that is (wrongly) argued to have been prevalent among so many of our ancestors, we mobilized.
Look at Kamala Harris, the Democrat senator from California, who is only the second African American woman in history to be elected to the U.S. Senate, and the first African American and first woman to serve as Attorney General of the state of California. Harris has always been a voice for the voiceless during her political career, but the 2018 cycle delivered her to the forefront of politics and has made her a key player in the fight to hold Trump’s regime accountable.
Her stance and her fearlessness have led to her seriously being considered as a presidential candidate in 2020. There’s a heaping dose of black excellence for you.