Reason 8,447 Why We Need Black History Month

, , , , , | Related | September 23, 2019

(My family and I are visiting my dad’s aunt. She is in her early 80s, is typically very social and fun to be around, and loves the latest and greatest technology and classic sports cars. Some of the discussions that happen during this visit are reminders that we grew up in different times. For background, my dad’s side of the family immigrated from Ireland in the 1920s. My parents are somewhat liberal democrats, and my dad’s aunt is a somewhat conservative republican. While watching television, the following conversation occurs. A commercial comes on with black actors.)

Aunt: “They sure do love to employ black actors, don’t they?”

Mom: “What do you mean?”

Aunt: “All these commercials. They have so many people of color. Black people, Asian people, Spanish people… The companies really want to show diversity.”

Mom: “It’s a good thing.”

Aunt: “Yeah, but you hardly see white people anymore. We’re not represented. The blacks have it so good these days! It sure is a great time to be alive for black actors!”

Mom: “Uh… okayyyy.”

(Later, a conversation about slavery ensues:)

Mom: “It was one of the darkest periods in America’s history.”

Aunt: “Yeah, but it was nothing compared to how to Irish were treated!”

Mom: “What?! How so?”

Aunt: “The Irish were denied jobs, they were discriminated against, they couldn’t afford to feed their families or find homes, it was awful!”

Mom: “Yeah, but they weren’t slaves.”

Aunt: “Slaves didn’t have it so bad. It was their own fault, anyway.”

Mom: “WHAT?!”

Aunt: “Yeah! They came here on boats, but since they were from Africa, they did things the opposite way Americans did. They didn’t know any better because Africa is a backward continent. If they knew better like Americans did, they would have had jobs, owned houses… but they didn’t know how life worked over here, so they had to work as slaves.”

Mom: “They didn’t choose to be forced into labor, sold, or whipped. Most of them were kidnapped, captured, or tricked into thinking there was a better life over here.”

Aunt: “Well, I’m just saying, they didn’t have to come on the boats…”

Mom: “I’m done here…”

(Later, my mom told me she kind of hoped my dad’s aunt had the beginnings of some sort of dementia like her brother — my grandfather is very bad — but she also couldn’t rule out what the public education in the 1940s was like.)

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