BLACK History Month is traditionally a time to honor black Americans and, theoretically accord them their proper place in American history.

Every February we re-examine the exemplary lives of Harriet Tubman, Charles Drew, Fredrick Douglass and those of lesser known but truly significant leaders.

The occasion has always felt too narrow to me. We are eager to celebrate our favorite figures and their trailblazing achievements - Barrack Obama is the latest - but less eager to examine the fact that their heroism was based more in fighting an American system that fought - and still fights - as their status as full Americans.

Perhaps it's because black people don't want to ruin the Black History Month party and white people would rather not examine their role in the racism that made the month necessary in the first place. I've grumbled for years about the shortcomings I see, but I've have always come down on the side of celebration. We deserve it.

But the party [though God knows we could use one] can't be the point this time.

In 2020, at this very perilous moment in the history of us all, it's urgent that we turn the lens around, take it off the worthy black individuals and put it on America as a whole.

It's time to acknowledge what black history really reveals - not individual heroism or the endurance of democratic ideals, but their opposites.

Time to examine black history has always shown us : how hundreds of years of codified oppression, group think, hypocrisy, lies and political cowardice have made possible, and palatable, the political oppression and moral corruption of the current moment that threatens to wipe out democracy for everybody.

I don't exaggerate,. We've already had lots of alarmed post-mortems bout the recently concluded Senate impeachment trial in which the Republicans united to ensure no witnesses were called.

The party is increasingly recognized as a cult that serves not people - after all, 75 % of Americans wanted to see more evidence - but its own interests.

It is flaunting this self-interest openly, la Trump, even suggesting that racist, crude or unconstitutional acts by the president are simply idiosyncrasies - or executive privilege - that ere ultimately good for democracy. America appears to be, as Susan Sontag might have said, at the end of seriousness.

But we have been at this end before. We have always been here. The institution meant that the Constitution, for all its worthy prescriptions that Representative Adam Schiff defended so eloquently during the House trial, was going to be a document undermined from the beginning by the founders' tacit embrace of that institution.

Black history rooted in slavery means that the country was always going to have to make ugly compromises with its own ideals, a process that become normalized.

The Honor and Serving of this brilliant work, thinking and writing, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Erin Aubrey Kaplan.


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