OPINION: As the only African-American in the Alaska House, I oppose Black History Month designation. Here’s why.

Thursday, March 28, 2019 - 09:47
  • Rep. Sharon Jackson, R-Eagle River, is applauded by her colleagues after she took the oath of office from House Speaker Pro Tempore Rep. Neal Foster Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019 at the Alaska State Capitol. Jackson was nominated by Gov. Mike Dunleavy to fill a seat vacated by Nancy Dahlstrom, but she was not sworn in on the first two days of the session because the House could not agree on a Speaker Pro Tempore, which is required for procedural reasons. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

This week, after thoughtful consideration, I have withdrawn my support for HB 72, a bill that would make Black History Month permanent in Alaska. As the only African-American in the Alaska House of Representatives, I want you to understand why I felt compelled to do this.

February is Black History Month in the United States of America. Since 1976, every U.S. president has acknowledged the contributions of African-Americans to the fabric of our nation. Yet, despite the shiny facade of cultural awareness, the black community remains as impoverished, divided, and oppressed as ever. Our problems are almost never addressed head-on, yet we continue pledging our loyalty to any politician who happens to say a few nice words about us.

We cannot continue to be blinded by the fact that a legislative body celebrating the existence of black people doesn’t solve any of our problems.

Those who know me best know that I always tell it like it is, so here it goes: I’m not going to support any more empty efforts aimed at appeasing the black community. I don’t want platitudes. I want real policy solutions.

I’m tired of watching politicians – usually of other ethnicities – act like they care about the black community by passing feel-good bills, and then avoid answering the tough, painful, uncomfortable questions that challenge the black community. That isn’t empowerment.

I’m tired of watching programs like affirmative action in schools or businesses that allow in only enough black people to meet a quota and throw away the rest. That isn’t empowerment.

I’m tired of being told that Black Lives Matter, only to watch governments spend millions of Medicaid dollars each year to pay for the termination of black lives in the womb. That isn’t empowerment.

Having Black History Month doesn’t change any of these things. In fact, I would argue that it condones them. Our country does need to have a conversation about race, but not the one the mainstream media is force-feeding us.

Let’s answer these questions instead: How can we expect black children to grow up and be successful or empowered when only 45 percent of them have a father in the home to help teach them right from wrong? How can we talk about the disproportionate numbers of black men in prison before we acknowledge that they’ve been left to a life of addiction through drugs and alcohol? Society isn’t corrupted for imprisoning high numbers of black men and women – it’s corrupted for enabling so many disadvantaged people with welfare checks to remain addicted and hopeless for their entire life preceding arrest.

These are real questions that need real answers – not redundant recognitions of black existence. Rather than spending resources to keep people down, we should be investing to lift them up.

I’m not going to stand here and allow anyone else to patronize African-Americans and promote the terrible idea we are all victims. Good intentions pave the way to nowhere. The underlying issues must be addressed, and we, the legislature, must have the courage and fortitude to face them.

Sharon Jackson is a U.S. armed forces veteran who represents District 13 (Eagle River/JBER) in the Alaska State House of Representatives.

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