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Monday, March 2, 2009

Lift Every Voice and Sing

I went to an elementary school program for Black History Month to watch my little sis perform. It was a great show with lots of parents and students and proud teachers and staff. The student chorus began the program with Lift Every Voice and Sing, for which everyone was asked to stand. I quietly sang along, as did others, and enjoyed the performance. I had never even known that this song existed until I went to a BHM event at my last University. People sang it with gusto and the song leader rallied the group for another round of the chorus. It was quite moving. I learned the history of the song and why it is so important and now happily share in its singing. Though the tune still throws me a bit as it changes keys and octaves.

I suspect most white people and others who are not African-American have no idea this song exists or what it means to a community of people. I thought it would have been a great choice for the inaugural. But for the most part, this seems to be a cultural element that is kept within the black community. I will leave others to explain its symbolism and meaning and its use.

A friend sent me this link to a Canadian site about race relations. The topic of this particular posting is about White privilege and whether it exists or not. The comments are very insightful, ignorant, passionate, and thought provoking. Just as it should be on this topic. What struck me was the commenter who said anyone bringing up the topic was suffering from brainwashing. Apparently he does not believe it exists and in fact, turned it on its head and called it White Guilt and took to task the now famous piece "Unpacking the Knapsack" linked in that blog and on this site, and poo-pooing the likes of Tim Wise, whose work is linked on this site.

I put these two experiences together and have these thoughts.
1. this country is far from being a post-race society. Electing Obama was great, but doesn't mean the population is at all educated about race issues. I am not sure we can be post-race without having learned those things.
2. the black national anthem or black national hymn flies under the mainstream white radar. Why? Maybe it is celebrated in schools today. I grew up before BHM was created. But I am betting most white people are clueless and if informed, would see it as a evidence of "separatist" sentiments - not unlike one of the commenters on that blog post.
3. the existence of white privilege is why 1 and 2 are sad, but true. WP is not hogwash, it is not guilt, it is the way that whites have constructed society. And we did so quite brutally on the backs of people enslaved to do our labor. We continued it as we kept our white children separate from the presence of black children and deigned to provide only the most meager of educations to them. We foist our WP on everyone every day by classifying people as minorities - never to be part of the majority (except the math is not working as well now) and creating hoops for them to jump through. As if, as if, as if - anyone of colored skin or other race should have to prove their worth.

Lift every voice and sing...let us march on till victory is won.

1 comment:

peanutsgang18 said...

Hi my name is Charles Brown, im one of Mr.Wakes students from his humanities class. I found your blog, lift every voice and sing very interesting.It has open my eyes a little wider and stirred up some compressed questions. See as nieve as it sounds i don't really like to think of our country as bias, i try to believe that racism and segretgation has been completely abolished right along with slavery. But I as read current events and watch the news i still see the signs. i one day hope to unite all races as one and allow every one to truly be equal. As Of now were far off Track but we inched closer to the road with our new Black President.And like Barack Obama I to wish to become a Advocate against prejudice and stereo typing.... Because i have much love 4 everybody♥