Princeton’s Edie S. Glaude: Black History Month Reveals the White Lies of America

Historians in the News
tags: Black History Month, Edie S Glaude



Edie S. Glaude is the chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University and the author of Democracy in Black.

… Black History Month reveals that “white lie” for what it is.

America’s myth has enabled what Toni Morrison calls a kind of disremembering, which blots out the pain of past events and horrible loss. We tell ourselves that ours is the chosen nation, the “shining city upon a hill”—that America is an example of democracy achieved. That is our myth.

To believe this, we have to forget that for much of this nation’s history black people have had to wage a relentless war against white supremacy. Forget about the strange fruit dangling from poplars, or the chalked outlines of the bodies of our loved ones shot down by police. Forget that women have had to struggle against patriarchy and its violence at home, at work, or just walking the street. Forget that our class structure is so rigid now that you have a better chance of winning the damn lottery than getting out of poverty and achieving the American dream.

Paul Beatty, the Booker prize winning author of The Sellout, has it right: “That’s the problem with history, we like to think it’s a book — that we can turn the page and move the fuck on.” Nothing can be further from the truth.

The yearly ritual of Black History Month ideally strips away the illusions of our national myth. It is a 28-day refusal to turn the page.




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