What makes us, us? Black History Month

    SN post 1Since 1926 Black History has been recognized in the United States during the month of February. Originally one week long, it was created by Carter G. Woodson.  He believed that by raising awareness of African American contributions to civilization, “truth could not be denied and reason would prevail over justice.” 
    How is it possible that 95 years later, on January 6, 2021 a violent mob, rooted in the belief of white supremacy, attacked the US capitol? A mob which was intent on overturning a legal and democratic election. A mob which tried to suppress the voices of millions of American voters. A mob who was encouraged and supported by the 45th president of the United States.
    In the hopes of understanding this crime in the context of my own whiteness, I have been following the work of Rachel Elizabeth Cargle. She writes, “Black history is American history.”  “Unlearn the boundaries of whitewashed history and culture” and understand, “what makes us, us.” Each day she offers a topic to Google …Black cowboys…Black Wall Street…The Chitlin Circuit…Combahee River Collective…the Devine Nine…womanism
    And so I Google Black Cowboy. I note my surprise at seeing a Black woman on a horse. In the short YouTube documentary I watch, I learn about the origin of the word cowboy.  And I learn that the classic John Wayne, hollywood cowboy is based on the true life stories of Black men like Nat Love, Bass Reeves and Brit Johnson. I feel my perceptions being challenged.
    Mindfulness teacher, Ronda V. Magee writes, “race is not something outside of us, it is something we are doing.” She suggests bringing, “awareness to the way your mind ‘does race’, the way your mind makes race filled assumptions.”  As a practicing Buddhist, I practice to notice the habit patterns of my mind. When I turn my attention toward race, I notice how my body changes in the presence of a Black person. I become hyper-aware. I feel discomfort and uncertainty. 
    Magee goes on to define racism as, “a complex of behaviors and explanatory stories that enable some humans beings to assert power over other human beings.” She states, “we often refer to people as white, black or some other race, without thinking twice about it, as if race is the natural order of things. But race is a matter of social imagination and construction, of perception shaped by a given context.”
    The history I explore through Cargle’s prompts are small ways I can challenge my perceptions about race.  It is only by noticing my racialize patterns of thought that I can begin to change them. What makes us, us?  We do.
    by Sara Neall
    February, 2021
    This post is rooted in the work of:
    The Inner Work of Racial Justice - Ronda V. Magee
    © 2021 Charter for Compassion. All rights reserved.

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