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?


  1. I totally agree with you. One of my employees had the audacity to say and I quote "You people don't need a black history month now that Obama, a black man, is president". So because we have a black president, no one should know black history???? And it's funny to me how, like you said, it is confined to one month. How is it that we can study European history 11 months out the year but we get one month, and it's the shortest one at that. There's more to black history than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Madame CJ Walker, etc. History should be integrated because it's just that, history.

  2. Jamaican Queen2/19/09, 3:32 PM

    I could not agree more. The thought of just one month for black history has never made sense to me. I was born in Jamaica, West Indies but spent my formative years in the U.S. I went to public school and was quite shocked when I heard about Black History month. The idea itself was so foreign to me. I remember sitting in class thinking, ‘Are you serious’? It was simply mind boggling. I believe black history should be taught year round. Come to think of it, not only should black history be incorporated ALL history should be taught. I can't remember learning anything about the history of Native, Asian, or Hispanic Americans. I often ask the same question why is there a systematic "watering down" of certain parts of America's history? The definition of history is "A chronological record of events, as of the life or development of a people or institution, often including an explanation of or commentary on those events."? Throughout the history of this country, blacks have contributed significantly to the development and building of this nation. Why would you not want to share the knowledge of those contributions? The answer to that is more complicated than there is space.
    On a recent trip to Ghana, Africa our group visited the national park and tomb of Ghana's first president, Kwame Nkrumah. I noticed a headless, battered, bronze statue on the grounds. I asked our tour guide who that was. He stated that was once a statue of Dr. Nkrumah. Our tour guide explained that in 1966, while Nkrumah was on a state visit out of the country, the government was overthrown in a military coup. The headless statue was the result. I remember thinking the significance of this juxtaposed view. A headless statue of Kwame Nkrumah stood in the same national park that honors this man who was and is so revered in Ghana. I asked why the statue there. Our guide simply replied, “Because it is a part of our history. It reminds us of our past mistakes and guards us against making the same ones.” To dilute history no matter how brutal or embarrassing denies the existence of the contributions, and chronological events. Worse it shuts down any possible dialogue that could be beneficial about learning about someone else’s culture. More importantly it opens the door to repeat mistakes of the past.