February. There’s a lot happening this month. Daffodils are coming up, cherry trees are getting ready to explode, Valentine’s Day, Presidents Day, and it’s Black History Month.
I’ve read that February got the nod for Black History Month because both Abraham Lincoln and Douglass Truth have birthdays this month.
I’m not a huge fan of months getting saddled with labels. It’s overdone. Picking and choosing which I pay attention to, though, Black History Month makes the cut. Now, Black history should not be a topic only in February, Black history is a tremendous part of American history. Our received history, though, omits many significant contributions made by Black people. Putting something on a calendar can remind us to pause, take stock of how this issue touches on our own slice of the world, and set intentions for the other 11 months.
I do believe that few people are intentionally racist. Sometimes, though, we find ourselves in awkward situations. We may be under a bit of social discomfort and, before we can stop ourselves, we hear these words coming out of our mouths: “I’m not racist, BUT . . .”
We discuss the unwanted “BUTs” in classes. It’s a little word, ubiquitous in our media and conversations. It has an important role in giving meaning and color to our sentences. And it is overused.
BUT is a drama word. It’s a separator. It negates what went before. Sometimes it’s intent is to try to soften a harsh criticism, but I think mostly it’s to soften the speaker’s discomfort.
So when someone says, “I’m not racist, BUT . . .”, they’re saying they know what will come out next is racist and they don’t want that label, they want to be teflon. People are not teflon.
Little life hack: delete the word “BUT” from most of your sentences, if you are not meaning to try to negate what you just said. It is not easy, and you can make that your intent for the next 11 months.
Stay safe, life life.