K. Dawn Rutledge

By K. Dawn Rutledge

February is now behind us, but there’s still much to discuss when it comes to Black History and the contributions Black people have made across the globe. During February, I wanted to see how Blackness is celebrated. 

I asked a simple question on Facebook: “What do you love most about being Black?” I just knew my Black Facebook friends would flood my timeline with answers of pride around our history and the power of our community. But what I received was nothing. Crickets. It puzzled me that whenever we post pictures of vacations, parties, nonsensical articles or silly memes, there is no shortage of likes, comments and shares around these topics. Yet only one person responded to a post celebrating Blackness, and that troubled me. 

Clearly, history points to years of discrimination and racial injustice the Black community has endured. Thank goodness for the freedom fighters who stepped up and sacrificed to bring us to this point. However, when many of us should speak up and talk about the abundance of our greatness, we remain silent. When it is time to talk about what is amazing about who we are and show appreciation for those trailblazers who came before us, far too many of us have nothing to say. So, we must ask ourselves, why is that?

As I witness what is happening in this moment of history, I am reminded of Black codes, Jim Crow laws, voter suppression and other tactics intentionally designed to hinder the progress of Black people. Today, our voting rights are under attack. Critical race theory is under attack. This academic framework, which has been around for more than four decades, examines how policies and the law perpetuate inequities and systemic racism – and it is being snubbed out of classroom discussions. Even as we wait for confirmation of the first Black woman nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, some lawmakers and judges across this country are pushing through and upholding laws that continue to suppress progress and knowledge.

According to a 2021 research study conducted by The Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C., nine states, including Tennessee, had passed legislation banning discussion and teaching around race and racism in public schools. Some states have even included gender in that equation. Now in 2022, up to 36 states have put restrictions in place on education around race, racism, and related topics. Should Black people be outraged about this? Absolutely! And so should non-Black people.

In February, while there were glimmers of celebration much seemed to be superficial. On channels such as TV One and BET, which show Black culture through its programming, BET promoted movies like “Precious,” “Baby Boy” and “Boyz in the Hood” as part of their Black History line-up. I’m not saying those movies aren’t important to the Black experience but of all the Black movies made over the years, why would the network not feature those that educate, inspire and demonstrate the power, resilience and achievements of our people rather than those that emphasize misogyny, incest and violence. Then let’s not forget the Super Bowl. It was a great performance. As a hip-hop head, I was glad the genre was highlighted on one of the largest viewer stages. But in the excitement of entertainment, let us not forget the National Football League is still not hiring Black coaches like they should, and that Colin Kaepernick was right and deserves an apology and his job back.

So, for those who did not respond to my question, I’m going to share just a few reasons about what I love about being Black: resilience, beautiful hair, smooth melanin skin, curves, intellect, pride, family, rhythm and blues, soul food, perseverance, dignity, ingenuity, creativity, and the power to make change. Of course, I could go on.

Being proud of our Blackness is not something we should ever be silent about. Regardless of whether it’s Black History Month or not, we should never shy away from saying it loud: “I’m Black and I’m proud.”