Thursday, February 19, 2009

No Black History MONTH (?)

Once a year, we dedicate February to the accomplishments and achievements of American-Americans. Once a year, we put on our Black History programs and sing the National Black Anthem. Once a year, there are TV specials aired to showcase Black people in all their glory. But once a year is not enough.

This has been a discussion for quite sometime, however different reasons have been expressed as to why some feel that Black History Month should be done away with. Some people say that there's no WHITE history month, so why is there a BLACK history month? To that, I say, EVERYDAY we're taught white history. And how dare those people think that our history is not as important as so-called "white" history. When I was in the 10th grade, my World History teacher told us that we would skip the chapter on Africa and come back to it in February, during Black History Month. The first thing that ran through my mind was, "OK. Why do we have to wait until February to read about Africa? This is a World History class." February came, but the chapter on Africa was never discussed. As I look back on it now, it angers me that not only did that teacher choose to downplay the history of Africa, he also believed that that history should be taught exclusive to February, or Black History Month. Black History is History, and should be treated as such.

Even still, there are some folks who think that Black History Month has become trivialized and watered down. It has become a month that focuses on who invented the hot comb and the traffic light, Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech, riding on the back on the bus, and Black firsts. They feel as if Black History Month has turned into some mundane, inconsequential affair that devalues the historic significance of our accomplishments. Debra J. Dickerson, author of The End Of Blackness, wrote in her article "Why I Loathe Black History Month, "Black History Month is far too much about the perfidy of whites and far too little about how blacks have faced up to the challenges, however monstrously unfair and difficult to surmount." She believes that for too long, we have allowed Black History Month to focus on the treacherous treatment of white America on Blacks and less on our abilities to surpass the many obstacles that have been put in front of us. Black History Month is not just about our past, but also about our present and our future.

Both of these arguments have been heard many times. Even more so, now that we have a Black President. I don't think that Black History Month should be done with, but I do think that we need more than just ONE month. Black History needs to be included in American History because our history is America's history. Many of our ancestors built this country, hell, even built the White House. So why should we settle for just one month out of the year to be educated on African-American accomplishments, successes and even missteps? So many people want to stop talking about race as if race is not evident. I know I'm Black. White people know they're white. So why act as if race doesn't exist? Not talking about it won't make it go away. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke about race relations yesterday and called America "a nation of cowards" when it comes to discussing and acknowledging race. Holder said, "One cannot truly understand America without understanding the historical experience of Black people in this nation." I couldn't agree more. What do you think?