In just a few days, I have the distinct pleasure of attending my third Northeast Greek Leadership Association Annual Conference and, the most exciting part of all, I have the opportunity to present my very first educational session at the Conference! During the Call for Programs period, I was going through a bit of a rough patch, and I honestly considered applying a reasonable distraction from my personal challenges.
Now that we’re less than a week away from the big day, I’m glad that I’m able to look back at that moment and say with confidence that things are alright now. With most of my personal life in order, I can truly channel a substantial amount of energy into encouraging the bright minds I encounter to advocate for the best possible fraternal experience in our (mostly snowy) neck of the woods.
At the same time, while I feel satisfaction from the work I’ve been able to do and relief in my my professional life, this month has been exhausting. If the Oscars’ pick for Best Picture was any indication of how the outside world works… we’re in for some trouble.
Despite Mahershala Ali’s unmatched talent in every performance, including this one, lauding Green Book, this “biography/comedy-drama” as a revolutionary work when it failed to truly acknowledge the history of THE original Green Book (that’s the Negro Motorist Green Book – the guide Black folks used to ensure their protection while travelling) is appalling.
This is the pop cultural “but I have a Black friend” response, that doesn’t get followed up with any level of critical analysis by the general white American population or questions about if Black folks feel safe around white people (the answer from a lot of Black people is no, by the way).
I have nothing against the story of Doc and Tony, and I take minimal issue with the historical inaccuracies as the movie is “inspired” by their interactions, and it’s not intended to be a documentary.
I do find it exhausting when history is sanitized to palatable to white audiences, either by making a true story comedic and fictional, or by sanitizing the truly challenging parts to be comfortable enough to sit through. I am never going to know what it was like to be Black in the 1940’s, and to have lived in that Green Book era. But if you look really closely, this still exists. Black people are still creating “Green Books”, spaces for our own protection, to share these experiences in private… because no matter how how many “progressive” politicians you elect, even they refuse to look at themselves in the mirror and face what they might see looking back.
The History Channel’s article on Victor Hugo Green’s Green Book highlighted the last days of its life, with iterations edited by Victor and published until his death in 1960, and with continued support through the persistence of his wife Alma as editor in the following years. “In 1964, the Civil Rights Act finally banned racial segregation in restaurants, theaters, hotels, parks and other public places. Just two years later, the Green Book quietly ceased publication after nearly 30 years in print.”
It doesn’t matter what bills are made into law anymore, because the racial segregation that was being put to rest with the Civil Rights Act is alive and well.
Do something about it.