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After watching recent episodes of Jeopardy, I had a real Aha moment.

Approximately every two out of six episodes had at least one category related to African Americans.  The rest of the game board categories contained a combination of academic subjects such as spelling or mathematics and a host of random facts regarding White American interests and/or other history.

To my chagrin, I noticed that each time a category regarding all things African American was included, it was prefaced by the words: African American this or African American that.  The same was not true for other categories.  In fact, the other categories in the game were labeled quite differently and often quite humorously.

I further noted that even when all the answers pertaining to the other categories in the game were regarding White authors, White actors, etc., the categories were never labeled as White Authors or While Actors or White Philosophers.  Author, Actor or Historian were enough.

Why?

Why did and do questions relating to African Americans have to be singled out and specified…both on the show and in life?

Inevitably, after THE category (because it was only one) specifically​ labeled as African American this or African American  that was completed, the remainder of the game board contained information specific to situations celebrated, revered or sometimes even considered less appreciated by white America.  But, regardless of the associated emotion—from love to abject horror—the topics were merely categorized as History, Actors, 18th Century Authors, etc., with only the locations to give them away.

I had no other choice but to, once again, conclude that anyone versed in “White” History—or, as it is usually called, “History” in general—can do well on this particular type of game show as well  SAT/ACT exams and the like, since these mandatory tests are little more than mini-episodes of Jeopardy, minus the musical interlude and snappy comebacks from the host.

However, if that same individual focused on historical matters pertaining to their own history or race of people, they would not do nearly as well in any of these things.  In fact, they would probably not even be considered bright.

Militant maybe…even hateful.  But bright wouldn’t be listed.

Meanwhile, White Americans can and do finish school having learned barely anything about African Americans other than the occasional Black History Month studies.  And let’s face it, even if that is adhered to, it often showcases the same Blacks—e.g. Dr. Martin Luther King, Dr. Charles Drew, etc.—or emphasizes African American athletes and entertainers over the past and present-day contributions of African Americans to Science and Technology.

In 2017, students can finish school with minimal knowledge of African American life while it remains mandatory for these same students to know almost every facet of “White” life in order to be successful on any level of society…including game shows.

And what galls me even more is that, even when African Americans were directly involved in “White history,” we are still overlooked and left out of the history books.  The movie Hidden Figures is just one outstanding example of the squashing of African American contributions to America.  There are many, many others.  Somehow, the story regarding the Space program is included in American History.  However, the African American females integral to the mission were omitted!

Why?

Was this an innocent oversight or a deliberate attempt to white out (pun intended) the contributions of African Americans to society?

I’ll take “deliberate attempt to white out African American contributions to society” for 1000, Alex!

I guess we’ll just shuck and jive or play a few quarters while White Americans make history.

Can anybody hear me?

Every time I turn on the TV, it seems that yet another African-American male has been beaten, or worse killed, by a police officer.   From Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown to the latest victim, Michael Laney, police officers (and volunteer security as it were) are using deadly force and, more importantly, getting away with it.

Afterwards, we are bombarded with negative stories of the victim’s home life! His academic prowess or the lack thereof is discussed. His fatherless home, substandard and often impoverished lifestyle and probable penchant for violence is noted by someone with letters following his/her name. Images of the victim on social media at happier times are used, or rather misused, as possible proof of gang affiliation. Any drug usage, such as marijuana (a drug now legalized in at least three states), puts the proverbial icing on the cake.

The seemingly inevitable conclusion has been reached: He was expendable. Chances are they would not have lived long enough to make any real contribution to society, nor actually done so even if they had. The odds were against them. Better to eradicate them now than to allow them to languish indefinitely in already overcrowded prisons to wit they were undoubtedly headed.   Good riddance. No one will miss them other than their immediate family and/or friends, right? Case closed!!

But the image, the thought pattern remains in the public mind: he had it coming. If he was respectable and well-mannered and clean cut, it wouldn’t have happened. And then both sides of the equation lull themselves into the thought that there is no racial problem and that something else must have been in play.

However, over the past weekend, the latest beating of Martese Johnson, a black honor student at the University of Virginia (UVA), has changed all of that. He wasn’t a thug (perceived or otherwise). He had no knowledge of gang life or hustling. In his own mind, he was one of the respectable crowd, not like those wild heathens on the news. After all, he went the right school with the right people. Even HE thought that would have made a difference. This is probably why he kept calling out to the police, knee in his back all the while, that he attended UVA. Alas, to no avail. And I am thrilled for it. You see, young, African American men like him assumed that as long as they went to the best schools with the best people (read as white or at least non black in both cases), that they were immune to racism and racial violence. It took the plight of someone like him to reveal that as a lie.

Here’s the new message to African American males: No matter who you are and what you have accomplished through academia or via good, sound business practices, it is still open season on you! There is no escaping it. You are still being targeted at an alarming rate! Tread lightly!!

Now, I know that some people are going to remind us all that he may have been committing a misdemeanor at the time of the arrest (which is a capital offense for black males), so let’s address that. Just for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Mr. Johnson did produce a fake ID in an attempt to gain entry into a pub. Is he the first student, black, white or other, to do so? Was he even the first one to do it that evening? Was everyone treated with such aggression? Did they all deserve that? No? Ok, then. Let’s move on to the next part: he was cited for being belligerent. I don’t know about you but something about being jumped from behind and landing on the concrete, face first, would make me feel just a tad. . . . belligerent! Call me crazy, but I just think I would be a lot happier and easier to deal with if my face was not smashed against unforgiving sidewalk. Can anybody hear me??

On a recent episode of T.V.’s Jeopardy, three non African-American students strategically and obviously avoided the category regarding African-American History without as much as a second look from Jeopardy’s long-time host Alex Trebek…or the studio audience for that matter.  At first glance, this may seem outrageous.  However, when you consider that there even remains a need for an African-American History Month as well as a separate category for African-American History (as opposed to an American History that is inclusive of all Americans), some of the outrage subsides.

After all, why should students, college or otherwise, black, white or other, waste time learning about a category that has not yet made it into the history books?  Is not used in mainstream education as an actual part of history?  And, continues to be treated as a special section of history that doesn’t warrant a position in everyday history lessons?

Why study and memorize this particular aspect of history as long as there is no real reason to do so?  Unless you are majoring in African-American Studies and plan to teach it, what might this particular knowledge do for you in terms of your career?  Overall knowledge of this category will certainly not determine your ability to win at Jeopardy or any other game show where the answers to 90% of the questions relate to white-American history (better known as American History or simply History).

Nevertheless, the question must be asked:  Doesn’t history occur as it unfolds?  After all, isn’t history, history?  So how can patches of it be edited out, shuffled off to the side and ignored and history still be considered accurate?

The knowledge of African-American History will certainly not assist you in completing necessary SAT exams to gain college entry.  This particular knowledge will not prepare you for any job other than specified above.  So, even in 2014 with an African-American president in the White House, African-American History continues to remain in the background, taking a backseat to other areas and times in history that are required for all to know in order to even remotely be considered “smart” and knowledgeable enough to be successful in America.

Suffice it to say that, most often, on Jeopardy or anywhere else in America, the question to the answer is more likely to be:  Who is George Washington than who is George Washington Carver.  Can anybody hear me?

In the News, Julianne Hough has been receiving criticism for her choice of Halloween costume—namely Crazy Eyes of Orange is the New Black fame.   My question is why?  She didn’t don blackface to portray a nameless, faceless parody of all blacks (African Americans), she put on black face makeup to simulate the face (and hairdo I might add) of her favorite African American character.  Where is the harm?

Would it have been different if an African American chose Judge Judy as her Halloween costume?  Would she not have to don a wig?  Would she not have to don white face make up?  If she did not, would anyone know who she was imitating?  Probably not.

That being the case, was Julianne Hough supposed to don the hair and garb of her character choice and skip the fact that her choice is an African American?  Would you have guessed who she was imitating is she had not donned the skin coloring?  Probably not.

Now, do not misunderstand.  Blackface is incredibly offensive.  It marks a period of history where African Americans were treated as little more than circus clowns and toys for white Americans’ amusement.  Even today, signs of the quote unquote buffoonery can still be seen in certain aspects of entertainment.  Just a few years ago, it was used as a plot device for comedic effect, though I doubt anyone who noticed that was laughing.  Nevertheless, we must be able to distinguish between a simple—if poorly chosen/thought out—costume and one meant to offend.  Let’s face it, intent matters…as does effect.

As I hinted in a previous blog, there is a lot of confusion over what racism is and what it is not.  At the time, I stated that people seem anxious to label name calling racism and to ignore real racism such as what exists in the job market, in home buying, in choices of schools etc., for minorities.

I’ll/let’s revisit that.

Racism is not donning a costume for Halloween.  Racism is using that costume to inspire misery and feelings on insecurity for profit or entertainment.  Racism is not saying something that people do not like.  Racism is profiting or benefitting from the degradation and abuse of another group of people.  Racism is not mimicking.  It is destroying.  In the grand scheme of things, Julianne Hough’s actions amount to nearly nothing.

Julianne Hough did not cause the Federal Government to close down for three weeks for foolish reasons.  She didn’t name any of the sports teams in this country with offensive names like “Redskins” and then pretend that she doesn’t understand the true issue behind this choice of team name.  What she did was decide to dress up as her favorite television personality like most of us have been doing for years.  In fact, when challenged, she immediately backed down and apologized for her insult, however unintended it was.  I repeat, where is the harm?

Perhaps, just perhaps we should spend more time focusing on real issues of racism and not reduce ourselves or the struggle to squabbling over petty things.  A costume one day out of a year is not responsible for the imbalance in the law that benefits one group of people and harms another, nor is it responsible for the continued suffering of millions of people.  The fact is, we have much more of a pressing racial problem than whether or not some actress no one will even remember a few years down the line is engaging in cosplay.  Can anybody hear me?