This year for #BlackHistoryMonth I’m going to celebrate a different person each day. Sometimes they will be people that most of us have heard of, sometimes they may be people very few of us have heard of. Each have created or achieved something that taught me, moved me, changed me, filled me.
On this penultimate day of Black History Month, let’s celebrate someone who delved into history, tried to bring it to life and tease out more accurate and appropriate interpretations of it, and paid a price in backlash and concern trolling for her trouble.
N Hannah Jones is the NY Times force behind their recent 1619 Project, which, upon the sordid 400th anniversary of slavery in this country, sought to create a new understanding of just how long the history of slavery goes back, and just how much impact the long arm of that history has on the Black community today.
She told stories, in print and in podcast that illuminated the original sin, and the fallout from it that stretches over centuries.
She dared to cover slavery from the point of view of the African American experience of America today, and to some people that’s unforgivable.
There are so many examples of how bias lives on today in these reactions.
It reminds me of how male journalists haves asked women journalists forever if they can be “objective” covering stories of gender discrimination or rape or harassment, as though being male is being default. Objective. Outside one’s self and one’s identity.
Want to know another example of bias? Check out Jones’s wikipedia page linked to above.
It tells you everything you need ot know about who creates, updates, and maintains Wikipedia entries that her entry seems to stop in 2017, and other than one link in “other resources” NO ONE THOUGHT TO UPDATE HER ENTRY TO NOTE THIS PUBLISHING MILESTONE AND THE ENSUING INFLUENCE IT HAS WROUGHT.
It’s truly astounding.
I know her project made people feel seen. Understood. And I also know it made other people feel threatened and defensive. Hit dogs holler, as they say.
I hate that metaphor, so I certainly can’t close by saying “Keep hitting those dogs, N Hannah Jones.” since all dogs are good boys and good girls and don’t deserve being hit, so I’ll just say: Keep striking those nerves and speaking that truth. It matters.