I wondered how long it would take for someone to catch on. Afterall, the month of February, at least for the last few years, has represented a source of contention in the Wisconsin State Legislature. Disagreements, about who should or could be listed in the annual Black History Month Resolution, have become a staple among state Republicans. No, to Colin Kaepernick. No, to Stacey Abrams. Yes, to white abolitionists. This represents the perceived negotiations, that many of the state’s GOP legislators, believe they control. When presented with the toggling and back and forth, Democratic Black Legislators simply said “Not today.”
If you are a certain age, you have likely heard the phrase before. If you are African American, you have likely said the words before. The expression can be traced back more than 100 years. Today, it has been co-opted and used in a number of ways that include “Not Today Satan” or “Not Today Colonizer.” However, the intent behind it remains the same. Today, I will not let you bother me. Today, I will not let you frustrate me. Today, I will not let you steal my joy. Today, I will not let you run over me. Today, I will not let you decide my fate. Not today!
It is in that spirit, that I supported the decision to forgo a Black History Month resolution this year. Black legislators, often outnumbered, frequently find themselves defending, negotiating or begging on behalf of their community. Far too often, we must have white allies to be heard or taken seriously. Whether the civil rights movement or Black Lives Matter protests, it’s not a legitimate cause until we have voices other than our own, speak up on our behalf.
It’s insulting to watch Black people be evaluated, graded and picked apart to determine if they are worthy of being honored in a resolution. It doesn’t matter if you have lived an exemplary life or had some struggles, Black lives are often treated the same. The idea that we would have to defend a Wisconsin native, who’s a Yale Law School graduate, and was the first Black woman to be the Minority Leader in the Georgia State Legislature, was simply too much. Abrams was likely rejected because of her work to protect the right to vote.
Yet, these same lawmakers fall all over themselves to support someone like Donald Trump. Hard choices…fight for the right to vote or attempt to overthrow an election.
The hypocrisy becomes stifling after a while. Republicans can request that the Wisconsin flag be lowered to honor the death of an openly racially divisive Rush Limbaugh but refuse to have Colin Kaepernick’s name for kneeling to raise awareness about Black lives. Another republican legislator thought that Black History Month was about honoring white Abolitionists. This year, we simply said “Not today,” not on someone else’s terms or preferences. While we celebrate the contributions of African Americans every day, it becomes more evident why Carter G. Woodson determined we needed to create our own observance.