The Greek- Thinking Out Loud: Black History Month

We are well into February now, well into Black History Month. Every year, there are debates and discussion about the need and purpose of such a celebration. 

On one side, you have some who think that it’s unfair to designate a month to focus on one particular ethnic background, especially in a country with so many of them represented. 

Then you have others who feel that the study and highlighting of Black History in February, becomes only February – they see it as relegating as opposed to celebrating. 

Let’s address both, shall we?

I remember growing up and learning not much about the contribution of African-Americans in U.S. History. There was Crispus Attucks, the first American to die in the Revolutionary War. And Frederick Douglas, the great speaker and abolitionist a century later.  And then there was Charles Drew in the 1940s, the doctor who made big advances in blood typing and preservation. Martin Luther King a quarter-century after that. 

More? Not many, if any. 

And most of what I knew about these few, I learned during Black History Month. The point is it served a purpose. 

The standard line is always “There is no white history month,” which is rooted in ignorance and a fundamental lack of understanding and maybe a little hate down deep somewhere. Fact is every month is white history month. Designation is needed because it was deprived and suppressed for so long. It’s simple and you don’t have to be Gandhi to see that.

As for the argument that designating February as the month has the undesired effect of limiting it to and leaving it in that month. That’s a valid point. Which is why efforts to expand the study beyond are needed and well-received.

American history is deep and wide. A lot of stuff has happened here in just 3 or 400 years. And the people who write history textbooks have a tall order no doubt. In North Carolina, high school graduation requires a bank of Social Studies credits but only one American History course. You can take more, but you can also satisfy requirements with a variety of Civics, Economics or World History choices. So that’s a lot to pack into the one mandatory 16-week semester. Some cutting must be done. The problem was always that the contributions of Americans of African heritage wasn’t even included in the first draft for the most part. Wasn’t even there for the cutting.

This is what many efforts of the last few years, including the 1619 Project, have been about. So much of the collective contribution of African Americans was swept under the rug – suppressed, overlooked, disregarded, or just plain falsified.

So Black History, unlike any other, needs some light shined on it. And not just for Black people. We’re all better for knowing the truth and appreciating all of our contributions. So read that extra book with your kid or maybe watch a historical movie. Help your kid with that school project. What makes America great is the fact that it’s deep and wide. More deep and wide than the shortest month, but it’s a good start.

Just saying …

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