28 Days of Truth Telling is Never Enough
By Anne Price, President
Black History Month was created in response to lies told about Black Americans.
Since its inception in 1926, Black History Month has not only served to celebrate overlooked contributions Black people have made in shaping American culture and history, but has also been a movement to correct distortions, falsehoods, and stereotypes about Black people and Black life.
In short, we get one month when it’s “okay” to talk about all the ways anti-blackness permeates our policies, programs, and practices — and that’s woefully inadequate.
We must move beyond a 28-day recognition of the extraordinary achievements of Black people by focusing on how to dismantle anti-blackness year-round. We have to continuously work to lift up the humanity of Black people, and focus on how anti-blackness maintains racial oppression and economic exclusion today, and will continue to do so without a sustained effort to address anti-blackness head on.
In our latest report, Don’t Fixate on the Racial Wealth Gap: Focus on Undoing its Root Causes, we argue that we need a new approach to reassess and reimagine the rules, policies, and narratives that uphold anti-blackness. If we want to see real change in America, we must come to terms with the fact that anti-Black sentiment has led to dehumanizing and paternalistic systems that intentionally subjugate and constrict all people rather than lift them up.
Laying the foundation for this new approach, our work at Insight has pointed to how anti-blackness is deeply entrenched in our economic policies.
We’ve shown how false and reductive narratives about the moral damage of non-working people and the problem of the “free-loading by the able-bodied” stem from anti-blackness and the idea that Black people are immoral and predisposed to cheat the government.
We’ve called for capitalizing “B” to represent Black people. We recognize there are systems of power that operate to marginalize Black Americans, and capitalizing “B” offers a way, through language, to combat that marginalization.
We’ve also dug deep in narrative change work that calls out how notions of deservedness and worth are directly related to anti-blackness.
And, in a co-authored report on race and wealth in Miami, we’ve shown how whiteness or proximity to whiteness has real, demonstrated impact on who has political power and economic well-being, and who doesn’t. The research makes clear that people who identify as Black, regardless if they are Cuban, Colombian or from another Latinx group, fare worse, across many economic indicators, than white Americans and Latinx people who identify as white.
Anti-blackness is deeply rooted in our culture and economic policies and its impact is felt widely across race and class. It is a thread that runs through all of our communities, and working to name it and dismantle it can be central to a multi-racial organizing strategy to lift up us all.
Without being intentional in grappling with the strong role anti-blackness plays in shaping most economic policies, we will continue to be unsuccessful in advancing economic solutions that help all Americans.
As February comes to an end, let’s push ourselves to keep exposing the true reach and repercussions of anti-blackness. Because, in a leap year or not, one short month will never be enough.