Filed Under:  Columns, Opinion

The Hard Truth-Black history: Stolen stories

27th February 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Min. J. Kojo Livingston
Contributing Columnist

C’mon, you know the rule: It ain’t true until de white man says it.

Even if you’ve heard it a thousand times from a Black source; it’s not right until you’ve heard it from the white.

Black folks may do a great thing repeatedly but it ain’t worth celebrating until a white man does it.

Last week Antoinette Harrell witnessed this principle in effect when the documentary “Slavery by Another Name” was broadcast on PBS. The story is Doug Black­mon’s re-telling of the fact that slavery did not end after the Civil War but continued…and still continues into the 21st century.

“Re-telling?” Yes, the story was broken by Antoinette and other Black sources more than 10 years ago. Harrell went on national television and did documentary videos on the subject. Mae Louise Miller and Harry Cantrell went on the Tavis Smiley Show and were treated with open disbelief.

Now Blackmon comes along re-presenting the same information that they had already put forth and not only is it accepted as truth he gets a Pulitzer Prize, a PBS special and the honor of being considered the foremost authority on the subject.

What is hurting to Harrell and others is that she went to all of the major Black civil rights groups and they ignored her. No one, other than the Nation of Islam, wanted to deal with the issue of modern-day slavery. And now even progressive Blacks are pushing the film as if the Black research on this did not exist.

Unlike Blackmon, Harrell was concerned to the extent that she formed a ministry, Gathering of Hearts, to help people who are still suffering under those conditions. Unlike Blackmon she continues to wonder aloud how many more Black people are still being bound by peonage or other forms of slavery that we have not found yet. And more importantly, who will free them?

There are several aspects of this issue some internal, others external that should demand correction.

First there is the problem of Black self-hatred which makes us psychologically dependent on white people for validation of everything from our own self-worth to the fact that grass is green. We ignore our own prophets and listen to any idiot with white skin.

If de white man didn’t say it, it just ain’t true.

How many times have we held off believing or accepting something until it could be “verified” by some white source? When will we collectively mature to the point where we will not only trust, but seek out Black sources of information about our history and our condition? This comes naturally to other ethnic groups.

It DOES matter who tells the story because the teller can only share his or her point of view of the facts. What is presented, what is left out and how things are cast are all based on the values and world view of whomever is telling the story.

When I went to Afrika in 2005, I was livid because most of the books about Afrika in the bookstores there were written by white people. I had to search to find books about Afrika written by Afrikans and I was IN Afrika! Worse yet, it was hard to find stores that were owned by us. Even the Afrikan clothing stores were owned by Indians. This is an international problem for us. Remember our brainwashing started in Afrika before a single Afrikan was brought to these shores.

The next problem is with evil white people who steal our research and intellectual property and then get rich and famous off of it. This happened to Leon Waters and Malcolm Suber in New Orleans. The mountains of research they did on the 1811 Slave Revolt got jacked by a white guy.

In the case of Blackmon, Harrell and others had made national news exposing this problem as far back as a decade ago. Their actual research and on-site investigation began further back. Blackmon had to have used some of their research to do his version of the story. But, of course there is no attribution or credit given to those who risked their lives gathering and presenting this information.

We should reject and expose the efforts of anyone who steals from us and direct our people to the best sources of information about us, which is US.

Finally there is the problem of “friendly” whites who make their livelihoods telling our story or “fixing us” in some way. Whatever a white person does for Black people always gets more recognition and profit than whatever we do for ourselves. A frequent example is the new Tarzan; the white teacher that goes into the “ghetto jungle” and works with our kids. The Black teachers that were there for decades producing superior results never get recognized but the white teacher is praised and glorified. The message: All Black folks need is a white person who cares.

It is interesting that even whites who claim to be progressive or radical like to play “Tarzan” also. They would rather help Black children overcome the effects of racism than to teach white children or adults to stop being racist and oppressive. Logic would say if you want to deal with the problem, go to the source. Most white do-gooders would not dream of really dealing with their own people. I believe this is because it is safer and more lucrative for them to mess around in the Black community.

Again, when it comes to telling our story, white progressives still don’t get it. They think that it is important that they research, document and present our story to us and for us. Problem is, even with interviews and videos they can only present the story from a white point of view. Their arrogance tells them that this does not matter. You should remember that most progres­sive/radical whites are still white supremacists. They may oppose the oppression and abuse of Black people but this does not means that they a) view you as an equal, or b) want to see you do anything that might reduce or eliminate your dependence on them.

It is extremely empowering to tell your own story, your own way and on your own terms.

We, as a people must make this a priority and act accordingly…

…and That’s the Hard Truth!

This article was originally published in the February 27, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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