A few words on this blog, its intent, and current backlash.
Hello, lovelies :)
First, I don’t think we’ve been formally introduced. My name is Tracy. I am black and I am a woman. I’m currently a writer at BuzzFeed.com. I’m 31 years old, graduated from a small liberal arts college in Kentucky, where I’m from. I majored in English and minored in women’s studies. I’m a feminist/womanist, i love penguins, hate squirrels, and I literally turn into Beyoncé when ‘Partition’ comes on. Nice to meet you all!
So. I’ve seen this picture floating around all over Facebook and Instagram today, shared on the latter by rapper Bun B:
This kind of backlash isn’t new - my first interview ever was given to Channing Kennedy at Colorlines, where I spoke some on “talking outside the family,” aka sharing inside jokes in a public space (ie - where white people can access them). It’s a pretty good read, if I do say so myself. Channing’s a great writer and had some great questions.
But this year the backlash seems extra intense, and I have a couple of theories as to why. One is that since this blog began waaaay way back in 2008, it has become an official meme, with people making their own facts and posting them on social media. Some of them are pretty freaking awful. The satirical component is lost and they’re just unfunny and offensive. So, I wanted to drop a little note on how to tell which #LKBHF did NOT come from this site.
Any memes that begin with “The first bitch/nigga/hoe/hoodrat/etc…”
Any that contain pictures of actual notable black history month figures or celebrities. I think I slipped up on that once, but it was unintentional.
Any that contain pictures of traumatic scenes or events. I’ve seen some depicting funerals, and even one of a postmortem image of Emmett Till. Definitely not mine.
Any memes that make fun of crack/addiction, rape, domestic violence, or other really serious issues.
Any memes that are homophobic, transphobic, etc. I try very, very hard to be respectful here, but as a straight woman, I know that I am privileged, and privilege blinds. If you ever catch anything insensitive here, please let me know.
I’m also of the opinion that some are upset because we’re not supposed to speak about ourselves, our history, or our shared cultural experiences in anything less than respectful Mahogany card prose, especially when people outside the culture may be watching.
One thing I am not is ignorant or unappreciative of our collective struggles as a marginalized people. I have been through and seen too much as a black woman growing up in Kentucky for that to be a possibility. This blog’s intention is not to lampoon black history. It is to poke fun at the idea of Black History Month as a salve, to highlight the ridiculousness in the notion that 28 days of microwaved facts are an adequate homage to the whole history of such a sundry people. I don’t hate Black History Month. I hate the pigeonholing, the diluting, the aftertaste of forced appeasement that comes along with it being recognized in schools and public spaces.
And, of course, another big point of this blog is to have fun! Black folks are colorful and beautiful and so are the things that we go through and we have permission to laugh at them and our shared experiences. Wherever we want.
"This is why we can’t have nice things," says the internet. “How can we expect others to respect us when we don’t respect ourselves?” Honey, the Klan wasn’t formed because black people “didn’t respect themselves.” Black voters aren’t disenfranchised because we “don’t appreciate our history.” Those things happen/ed because there are awful horrible racist people in the world, and they will exist no matter how hard we try to prove to them that we really are good people worthy of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We’ve been trying to do that for centuries. Anyone who would take these sorts of jokes and use them as a reason to mock or hate or discriminate against black people will do so anyway.
"Treat others as you wish to be treated" is in the Bible. If Jesus can’t teach folks to be decent people, I fear that I stand little chance of doing so, and putting that burden on someone just because they are a minority is extremely unfair. This is the problem with respectability politics. We shouldn’t have to live perfectly in hopes that the majority will not treat us poorly (especially when the idea of what is "respectable" is so arbitrary and subjective and impossible to attain in everyone’s eyes). I should not have to give you reasons to treat me like a human being and not be a racist piece of shit — me being a human being should be enough for that. Anyone who takes anything found on this site (or in any space where black people refuse to retreat to some dark corner to talk about and be themselves) and turns it into ammunition is already flawed to a point that would not be lessened by this blog or the meme not existing. Being tasked with making sure white people are not awful people simply because I’m black is a draining burden and i will not do it.
And if this site or the memes it inspired, for better or worse, are the world’s only/main exposure to black history, then there’s a MUCH bigger problem that needs to be addressed.
I’m not here to tell anyone how to feel. I just wanted to say my first and last words on the current debate, since I guess I’ve had a hand in the birth of this meme.
Tune in to Temple University’s WHIP radio tonight at 9 pm EST to catch a little chit chatting with Tracy Clayton, curator and head researcher here at Little Known Black History Facts. Listen live at the link above.