By Bernard A. Coles IV
Special to the Chronicle
The first time that I read your article Ms. Kleinan, I was furious. I was ready to scream and fight. But rather than fuel your erroneous and aggressive stereotypes about my people I decided to calm down and reread your op-ed. The second time I thought it was funny. I thought it was a joke. How could anyone seriously believe this? But the third time, I was on the verge of tears because I knew that deep down you actually did. You believed that what you were writing was in fact true and proper. But let me tell you something right now, Black History Month was not created for you. For you to speak on behalf of Black America by saying that our hearts were not in support of this month was arrogant and frankly, it was racist. Now let me explain why.
To say that National Pizza Day is more significant than Black History Month simply because you and your group of friends got a social media notification is a baseless and concerningly egocentric argument. Whatever notifications you and the people you hang with get determine what’s culturally significant? Girl, please. You also mentioned how far we’ve come since Brown v. Board of Education. Have you ever noticed that it’s only white people who cite “how far we’ve come” as a justification to stop advocacy? Must be all that privilege blocking their view. “The U.S. is one of only three of the 34 O.E.C.D. nations to give fewer resources and have lower teacher/student ratios in poorer communities than in more privileged communities.” (nytimes.com) But wait, it gets worse. “Practices such as redlining, in which banks designate certain low-income neighborhoods where they won’t lend for home purchases or where they charge higher interest rates than similarly priced homes in non-redlined neighborhoods, and pricing discrimination, in which lenders charge minorities higher loan prices than to comparable white buyers, made the 2007 housing crash and the financial crisis worse overall and particularly bad for black families, who were twice as likely to enter foreclosure during the recession than white families.” (thinkprogress.org) Have we really achieved any [substantial] change if the reality in America is still stark inequality? How dare you suggest that we’ve achieved anything when you have literally never in your life experienced any disadvantages based on your race. You do not get to have an opinion without first educating yourself on the issue especially when the issue at hand involves the lives of your fellow human beings. But please, don’t take my word for it. Go read a peer-reviewed article about modern segregation like you should have done before you wrote that baseless and inflammatory opinion piece last week. There are far too many people who continue to say we cannot move passed this racial divide. But people, that divide doesn’t come from the existence of Black History Month, it comes from white people valuing National Pizza Day over Black History.
Ms. Kleinan you also cited in your article last week that Black History Month had “achieved the integration of black and white history.” Please hear and understand what I am about to say next because it is at the heart of the issue with your article. Growing up, subjected to the American education system, black kids have very little positive representation. We’re lucky if our textbooks properly depict slaves as property rather than smiling workers “hanging out at the farm.” Let’s put a microscope on that Ms. Kleinan. History and all curriculum for that matter, was and continues to be presented to us from YOUR perspective, the white perspective. It gets presented to us as if the only meaningful contribution a black person ever made to American society was peanut butter. How benign. How untrue. This month is OUR reminder that what we’ve been taught is not the end of our story, of our history. How can you take issue with that? How is us taking an interest in our history your problem? For you to say that Black History Month is “unwanted” and “unneeded” is beyond problematic. It is shameful and willful ignorance. But, I understand that you aren’t the only bigot Ms. Kleinan. I only hope that you are able to see that now and that you start taking the necessary steps to educate yourself and become a better person. Come find me after you learn to use the research catalogue Hofstra provides for you and I’ll gladly raise my glass to your education.