History still matters!
By Brian Maregedze
As we close the curtain of February in 2021, it is vital to reflect upon the centrality of not only History as a discipline but also Black History. The need and essence of celebrating the achievements of African Americans is the brainchild of the prominent historian Carter G. Woodson and the prominent minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). The organisation was later renamed the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASAALH) and is currently the oldest historical society established for the promotion of African American history. Due to the rise of populist demagogues across the world, some elements hinged on undermining the centrality of celebrating the achievements of not only continental African Americans but blacks in general have gained some traction.
Some of these critics on the value of History and that of Black History have manifested their beliefs through racist actions witnessed in accounting for the death of George Floyd in the USA almost a year ago, the rise in keyboard warriors using hashtags #Zimbabwelivesmatter among others. More notably, the case of South Africa and its media space is worth noting and denouncing. The way black bodies are represented in light of the pandemic with focus on the South African political journo who discriminately reminded a black parliamentarian to wear his mask while turning a blind eye on a white government official.
The Black History Month 2021 theme, “Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity” explores the African diaspora, and the spread of Black families across the United States.
The Black History Month is intricately linked to two looming figures in its history, that is, Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglas (born on 12 and 14 February respectively). These two icons are well noted for their instrumental role in the emancipation of African Americans from slavery and or in spearheading civil rights. George Floyd, a Black man, was murdered by a white police officer in Minneapolis in 2020. The death of George Floyd sparked the rise of anti-racism social movements across the globe although this sad incident had only started in USA. Among many other questions still in need of close attention relates to why there was the rise of protests against racism during the presidency of Donald Trump. Hence, the “I can’t breathe!” events born out of the untimely death of George Floyd have since ignited conversations about black bodies, racism, ethnicity, xenophobia and civil liberties beyond USA. As such, the story of Black History cuts across geo-location.
A closer reading on the significance of a truth commission on the brutal treatment of the Congolese under the Belgian King Leopold II still demands truth telling and reconciliation. It is no wonder commemorative artifacts have since faced demolitions in some parts of the world were colonial relics, slavery and imperial imprints are found.
Sadly, Lindsay Dentlinger the eNCA political reporter has faced serious backlash in response to her perceived racist explicit undertones when interviewing government officials at the recently presentation of the South Africa national budget, 24 February 2021.This came after a video footage of her interviews with Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald and the DA’s John Steenhuisen without their masks on emerged on social media, while she requested several Black political leaders, including UDM Chief Whip Nqabayomzi Kwankwa, to keep theirs on while speaking to her, “in respect of COVID-19 protocols.” Use link for full video, https://www.thesouthafrican.com/news/racism-claims-against-reporter-are-maliciously-misleading-enca/
Author, historian & columnist