A few years ago, I attended what is commonly known as the “Arizona Black Rodeo” in Scottsdale, AZ. This was a well-known and heavily attended annual event, drawing crowds even from out of state.
It was presented in recognition of the black cowboy throughout history. Although this event was held every year, this was my first time. While there were a lot of things to see and do, as well as many references to its history, I could not help but feel uncomfortable with the title of the event. I wondered why not (to avoid issues) name the rodeo after, say, Nat Love; aka, Deadwood Dick- the most famous black cowboy of all, or one of several different options?
Obviously, that was not the priority in mind.
In any event, after several hours of various attractions, great food, and fun with my wife, I didn’t even think about it. Towards the end of the day, I began receiving comments regarding the pictures I’d posted on social media. Though most of the responses were positive, one in particular gave me pause. “I know you are a great person,” it read. “I don’t understand how there is, without talk a “black rodeo?” If it were a white rodeo, wouldn’t there be talk?” He was right, and I knew it. Not for a moment did I do the, “It’s only a name,” thing, or excuse it by going into America’s history on slavery and racial issues as a rationale. Nor did I defend the “necessity and value concerning a celebration of the black cowboy in America”; those were not the points or even his points.
Honorable? Certainly. Worthy of a celebration? Absolutely. Harmless? Maybe not.
What if it were an all-white rodeo? Granted, even if an argument could be made for it being representative by-and-large of the times in the 1800’s, excluding white cowboys based on the color of their skin was just as wrong then as it is now. Somehow, someway, based on skin color, we overlook it. As I said before, the lines become blurred when color is involved.
Oddly enough, despite what many profess, it is as though blacks in America suddenly have amnesia when it comes to their own history. Somehow, someway, many of us have made excuses for our frailty through what some simply call, ‘reverse racism.’ History reminds us of those hundreds of solemn-faced black men of the 60’s- each draped in A-boards, bearing the words, “I AM A MAN.” History reminds us as well of the bloody 1965 attack on hundreds of civil rights activists at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. History cries out still when 6-year-old Ruby Bridges crossed from segregation to de-segregation in 1960, and when four black college students dared to risk their lives to sit at Woolworth’s segregated lunch counter later that same year.
Were these individuals seeking Affirmative Action? Equity? The removal of Aunt Jemima, Ms. Butterworth, and Uncle Ben from our nation’s kitchens?
No. These brave souls fought for no more than the salient distinction of being recognized as equals, bearing the same rights and privileges allowing some to become Miss America, some to win Academy Awards, while others still became President.
Unfortunately, we have couched ourselves in the dangerous position of thinking that addressing our racial differences by ‘reversing’ the attack somehow rights what is considered a wrong. Even in theory, this is a failed concept on its face. As a wise man once said, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth only leaves us blind and toothless.” Regardless of any justification, the term ‘reverse racism’ is an oxy-moron; there can be no reversal-there is only racism.
The simplicity of Martin Luther King’s words still ring true and have stood the test of time. There is indeed a danger inherent in judging by the color of one’s skin rather than the content of one’s character. Yet those profound words will be of less effect until those for whom they were spoken take full and unadulterated advantage of their value. Until the day black America recognizes the many avenues where we have overcome, we will continue to bask in a never-ending sea of obscurity, falling short of the fruition of Dr. King’s dream.
What is the solution?
Many of America’s children lost ground during the Pandemic that they may never again regain, even more so in the ever-increasing number of at-risk families. At Seeking Educational Excellence, we refuse to allow that to continue. With teams of professional men and women fighting for the success of our children, we will invest, encourage, and impart to the youth of America the tools necessary to persevere.
Seekingeducationalexcellence.org. Inspiration; not indoctrination.