“You may be picking cotton, but I am picking you ,”is the strange way a White male student at Burnsville High in Minnesota invited a Black girl friend to the prom. The incident (which is not unique since it was also done as a joke by some high school students in Florida last year), is revealing.[see Strib article below]
It unveils on some level just how deeply ingrained White Supremacy is in the American mindset, as well as the ignorance of the role of class including the history of cotton picking and who actually picked it. It also exposes the fact that some Black folks running from what they see are the troubles of city life sometimes wind up running from their responsibility to teach their children the truth about the society they live in.
Of course the deeper truth is some Black parents who move their children away from the city are in denial about who they are, others spend most of their time trying to convince folks that they are anything but Black and still others are simply ignorant. And yes there is a tiny minority that could be categorized (for lack of a better term) as “sell-outs.”
So it should come as no surprise that the poor naïve Black girl said yes!
When we look for where this obviously warped prom invitation came from, one of the culprits is the school, despite its insistence to the contrary.
“I want to make it clear that the posting does not align with the values of Burnsville High School and Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191,” the schools principal wrote. “We value all students, This incident is disappointing, to say the least, and directly conflicts with who we are.”
Unfortunately though the principal is well intended if the school district is not teaching the history of different peoples and the development of the continents of Africa, Asia, India as well as the early history of North America they are indeed sending a certain message of European (read White) superiority. Most of what is taught in US schools is Western history and Western civilization and it is not neutral, it is taught from the perspective that the world was put on the right course by the Europeans from the Greeks to the Romans to the period of the Enlightenment to the present technological/information age.
From that perspective the young man’s invitation is a reflection of what he has been taught consciously and unconsciously. “
It explains why some folks who call themselves White operate out of an ignorant arrogance. Very little is taught about Europe’s Dark Ages, its mentioned and skimmed over. The Moors influence on Southern Europe, especially Spain is glossed over. History is taught in such a way that the constant warring and ever present violence among the Europeans is pictured as noble and gallant.
This is the basis of the philosophy of White Supremacy, which is ingrained in most students through the educational system and buttressed by media, entertainment and the vast majority of corporate and social institutions, (which are not just run by White folks) and more often than not, are buttressed by the idea that the White way is the right way, or simply White is Right, or that White implies, boss and in charge.
It explains why even after he has been called out the kid is still clueless.
“I made the poster as a joke between my close friend and I and many took it the wrong way and were offended,” he wrote in a message posted to Twitter. “I’m sincerely sorry, no intentions were ever to offend her or anyone of color it was made as a joke.”
Why would he think his not so subtle attempt to debase his friend, that is put her in her historical place (beneath him) would be on any level be viewed as funny, or a joke?
No this was no joke. The disturbed young man put his friend in a place and time that she, nor Black people in general no longer exist. But she is still subservient which is what his so-called joke implies.
The girl friend out of ignorance and naivety about the world she lives in has most likely defended him and laughed it off.
She probably doesn’t know any better, but someone close to her should tell her, ‘listen this guy is not your friend. Judging from what he has written on paper he doesn’t see you as his equal. You are an object of fascination at best and at worst a fetish. He didn’t ask you ask you to the prom as a social equal. He implied that he was boss and/or master and even insinuated that he was doing you a favor by choosing you because you are “cotton picker” and he is not. Add to that he didn’t give you a choice, he said he “was picking you,” leaving you little choice in the matter.’
Incidentally lots of White folks picked cotton, not just slaves. And after slavery Blacks and Whites worked as sharecroppers picking cotton in the South. In fact the bosses worked tirelessly to break up every effort that Black and White sharecroppers made to form Sharecropper unions in which their mutual interests could be addressed.
White Supremacy has messed with the minds of Black folks in the sense that some believe that all White folks were historically privileged, rich or royalty, rather than filling the roll of the masses which would be peasants, serfs and now workers.
A Black woman actually tweeted recently, “since when did White people pick cotton.” It would be funny if it didn’t reveal ignorance of the history of her society.
Folks fought for Black folks to have the right to live where they want and send their kids to schools of their choice. But that doesn’t absolve parents of their responsibility to at the very least educate their children about the ways of a world, that just might take a dim view of their little ‘Colored “child.
Unfortunately education cannot be left in the hands of those whose job it is (whether they know or not) to make children willing and subservient citizens and unconscious allies and yes defenders of White Supremacy and Capitalism. When real change comes it will have to occur in the school house as well.
justice then peace