Saturday, August 12, 2017

Past Present Future

Last night I noticed that the Howard County Historical Society had added an event. I look a look.

"The history of the Blues with Jimmi Sexton". Cool! After the recent charity event that felt mighty, mighty white, an evening of the blues is a great way to make a comeback in being inclusive. After all, 

Blues is a genre and musical form originated by African Americans in the Deep South of the United States around the end of the 19th century. (Wikipedia)

I went to the Howard County Historical Society's webpage to learn more. I was a bit startled to see that Jimmi Sexton is, in fact, white. (Quick note: if I'm wrong here tell me and I'll publicly correct.) FYI: I was wrong. Mr. Sexton is of mixed race.

Can white folks play the blues?  Sure. Is it a problem for me that the Historical Society booked a white musician to impart the history of an African American art form? Yes, I think so.

Let's take a look at the events booked at the Historical Society this year:

Aug. 19: Fast Eddie and the Slowpokes -- white
Sep. 2: The History of Blues with Jimmi Sexton -- white
Sep. 23: The Classic Hitmen -- white
Oct. 28: Eli August & Nightwatch Paradox -- white, white
Nov. 18: "Historically Inappropriate Comedy" -- white
Dec. 16: Columbia Jazz Band -- two members of color out of about 26 in the photo
You have to wonder. When these artists are selected, what audience is the Historical Society hoping to attract? Do they think predominantly white artists "draw" better? When they think of Howard County, do they just think white by default? (When people say, "I don't think about race," that's often what's really going on.)
I am not "out to get" the Historical Society. I love history. I grew up going to similar places with my family. But issues of race have become so visible to me that I can't just walk by this without noticing. Is the Howard County Historical Society really meant to be the history of white people in Howard County? Or is it somehow assumed that only white people are interested in Howard County's history? Maybe there's just supposed to be some other museum that reaches out to people of color?
That, my friends, is segregation. And segregation is toxic: past, present, and future.

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