White Wisconsin Rep. Tries To Gentrify Black History Month
Last year's Black History Month began with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam's blackface scandal that wasn't (he's still in office). We thought things couldn't get worse, but Wisconsin state Rep. Scott Allen has plans to make Black History Month white again. Allen -- a Republican, naturally -- circulated a resolution identifying 10 people he believes were instrumental to the state's Underground Railroad system. The problem is that six of the 10 people are white. Apparently, you can't commemorate the Underground Railroad -- not even during Black History Month -- without highlighting the efforts of the white people who let runaway slaves crash in their secret Airbnbs. That's like celebrating Anne Frank without giving props to the attic. You can't just snub the attic like Chewbacca at the end of Star Wars.
State Sen. Lena Taylor dragged Allen to the curb for trash pickup in a recent interview. She's our new favorite person.
TAYLOR: Why should [Allen] be leading what we do on Black History Month? The fact that this even needs to be discussed is a reflection of where we are as a society. I wake up every day as a black woman, I'm not exactly sure what it is that Scott Allen believes he knows better than me.
Allen, to his credit, tried to explain what it is he knows better than a black woman. It was more than just the lyrics to Paul Anka's "Puppy Love."
He noted that the best way to convince his Republican colleagues to support a whole history month for minorities was if they were a minority of the people celebrated. Republicans have in the past accused the Legislative Black Caucus of "politicizing" the honorees. This is why the apolitical Republicans forced the removal of Colin Kaepernick from 2019's Black History resolution.
Last year, state Rep. LaKeshia Myers said it was important for people to understand that the civil rights movement "did not start with a bus, and it did not end with a king." The struggle for true equality is ongoing and Black History Month is a good time to address issues actively affecting the black community. Gee, calm down, Sister Souljah. Can't white people just thank Garrett Morgan for the traffic light and call it good? Allen promises that we can confront racism once we drop a couple Whole Foods in the middle of Black History Month.
ALLEN: I'd rather we work together to pass a resolution the Republican caucus can be excited about. If we can do that one simple thing, then we can start attacking the tougher issues.
The list Allen submitted includes six white abolitionists and four black slaves. There are also unnamed members of the Stockbridge-Munsee band of Mohican Indians. It's unclear why no one named them. Someone should've looked into that.
Black folks are pretty chill. We probably would've been fine with a couple white people on the list, especially if they were to abolition what Michael McDonald was to soul music. But the majority of the list is white and it's obviously deliberate. That's the only way Allen thinks the list could "excite" the Republican caucus. These are apparently people so racist they'd only tolerate BET if there was always a 60 percent chance the network is airing "Friends."
Allen tried unsuccessfully to "lampshade" how stupid his idea is: "Here I am, this white guy, proposing this resolution that honors some white people during Black History Month, and those are easy headlines to put out there and run with." The headlines aren't "easy" so much as the only clear way to describe what he's doing. Taylor kept digging a hole and eventually struck mayonnaise.
ALLEN: We so want to cling to labels in this country, we want to cling to identity politics, but we shouldn't be looking at this strictly because of race.
It's Black History Month. How else should we look at it? He's accusing us of identity politics but he's the one who thinks adding cream to Black History Month's coffee will "get people of all races excited about celebrating" it. Allen is the one with the arbitrary quota system.
Taylor is running for mayor of Milwaukee, and we hope to see more of her because she's a national treasure. She epically trolled Allen in an email about his resolution.
"Thank you Massa Allen for pickin' whose we should honuh suh," Taylor wrote. "We sho ain't capable of thinkin' fo ourselves, suh."
That's just awesome. Allen would likely protest any charges of racial bias because he's personally in a mixed marriage. His wife is black, and he's an idiot.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).