"In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever…." –George Wallace
As a Gen X’er who came of age in the 1980s, as soon as I understood the meaning of slavery and apartheid, I was perplexed by the most difficult of questions. How could the segregationalists of the 1960s (and earlier) have been so terribly wrong about civil rights?
The common answer proferred by white America is that "they were raised that way." Yet, to my tween-age mind, this raised an even more disturbing problem. If our childhood culture can influence our values to such a degree, how can we ever be sure of our own morals? I agonized over the question: If I had been born under Jim Crow, would I have known that segregation is evil? Would I have been evil myself?
And that’s how I discovered, sometime around the birth of MTV, that I’m a true blue postmodernist. (Hooray for Foucault!)
As an undergraduate in the early 1990s, I took a particular interest in Black Studies. My favorite "Black" writer remains Jean Toomer—author of the acclaimed literary work Cane (1923) and the so-called father of the Harlem Renaissance. For anyone who presumes to understand what Black Studies is all about, please read Toomer. For, here is a man who defied and defies categorization.
As Toomer himself wrote in his collection of aphorisms, Essentials (1931):
I am of no particular race. I am of the human race, a man at large
in the human world, preparing a new race.
I am of no specific region. I am of earth.
I am of no specific class. I am of the human class, preparing a new class.
I am neither male nor female nor in-between.
I am of sex, with male differentiations.
I am of no field. I am of the field of being.
Do you think you know what Black History Month is all about? Think again!