Well it’s February, and that means it is black history month. You probably clicked on the link to this article because of the title. Well, welcome, and I really hope this gets you thinking. I just want to make a few things clear before we get into this.
1) I am not against black history. That is not at all what this post is about, quite the contrary actually. I want to highlight some racial undertones to Black History Month that we may not see unless they are pointed out and given some context. 2) I am not racist. I think if you read through the whole blog post you will see that. Also, I am the first person in my, all white southern family, that will be married to a black woman. So you’ll have a hard time convincing me I’m racist. 3) This is advocating for our culture to go even further in breaking down racial barriers that exist. I would love to live in a world where skin color is not a dividing factor like it has been and still is today. This is me making my voice heard for more equality.
So here we go… 5 problems I see with Black History Month.
1. Black History Month is More About Political Correctness
Do you know the history of Black History month? Very few people do, so let me give you a quick synopsis of it. In 1926 Carter G. Woodson, along with the Association of Study of Negro Life and History, announced the second week of February was to be “Negro History Week.” Yes, Black History Month originally started just as a week. Not surprisingly, it was met with popularity within the black community, but was quite unpopular in the white community. It did not get expanded to a month long celebration until the Black United Students at Kent State University proposed it in February of 1969. Then, in 1976, the United States Government recognized the change from Black History Week to Black History Month.
You see, the fact that it is a month now is because even Gerald Ford understood that giving African Americans only a week was very politically incorrect. Still today it’s about political correctness. I’m an NBA fan, and I noticed that for about the first week of February NBA teams were wearing Black History Month shirts to warm up in. You won't see them in these shirts come March, heck they aren’t wearing them now and it’s still February. And this is a sport where most all of their athletes are black.
Do you see the problem here? So many companies, universities, organizations, or who ever, acknowledge Black History Month out of political correctness rather then truly valuing black history for the powerful history that it is.
2. Black History Deserves More Then One Month
I think we can all agree with this point and I don’t think it needs much explaining or justification. There is black history month, and Hispanic Heritage Month. Sooo what are the other 10 months? White history months? Normal history months? Why don’t Asians have a month, and Jews, and Native Americans, and… well you get the picture.
Black history is so much more powerful then just one month every year. It has shaped who we are as a nation and as individuals. It has given us standards to look up to and people to admire. It has shaped, changed, and transformed the world we live in today. So if you ask me, it should have more then a month. Here’s an idea, how about we celebrate our history, meaning black history (we’ll talk more about this in a bit) ALL YEAR!! That is what I would like to see happen. Not boxing in black history and treating it as a passing thought for the month of February, but rather have it be a prominent part of our everyday history, because it is!
3. Black History Month is an Old Way of Thinking
Before Carter Woodson came up with the idea for Negro History Week, the history of African Americans was nothing but an after thought. Acknowledging black history was a step that needed to happen to bridge the divide between black and white people, but we should know better now. 50 years later, stemming from political pressure, black people were given a full month to celebrate their history. Keep in mind that at the time Black History Week was expanded to a month it was still illegal for interracial couples to get married in many states (LesLeigh and I will have to write a post about the history of interracial couples at some point).
So what makes this an old way of thinking? It’s the fact that behind the idea of this (giving black people a full month) is the idea that, “This is black, this is white.” Which leads me right into my next point about segregation.
4. Black History Month Segregates History
At the core of racism is the mindset of segregation. This water fountain is for colored people; this water fountain is for white people. Merriam-Webster defines segregation as, “The separation or isolation of a race, class, or ethnic group by enforced or voluntary residence in a restricted area, by barriers to social intercourse, by separate educational facilities, or by other discriminatory means.”
People would be quick to point out that if you segregate a water fountain that would be racism, but if we segregate history, well that's a noble idea. Do you see the segregation here? You have white history and black history and Hispanic history. Last I check, there were white, black, and Hispanic Americans.
We must rid ourselves of this kind of thinking if we ever want to move away from racism. The sad thing is, this kind of thinking is still very prevalent in out culture today. How many times have you heard someone telling a story and the person will say, “Then this black guy…” or “An old Hispanic lady…” The fact that they were black, Hispanic, Asian, or white changes nothing about the story, but because segregation is ingrained into our culture we don’t even see when we segregate ourselves.
How about black church and white church, or a black college and white college, or a black neighborhoods and a white neighborhoods? My fiancée has lost count of how many times people have said to her, “You talk so white…” What they mean by that is you talk educated. So if a black person talks educated they aren’t talking “black?” How about one of the most grotesque displays of segregation that happened in 2014 with the hash tag #BlackLivesMatter? No, ALL lives matter and until we stop with the segregation and distinguishing between black this, white that, we will never get beyond the racism that exist in this country still.
At the end of the day, sectioning off a month for black history is teaching us to segregate it. This is black history, this is Hispanic history, and this is white history. This leads me right into my fifth point…
5. Black History is MY History
This is how we should start thinking of it. Not as black history, but as our history. I do not look at someone like Martin Luther King Jr. and think he is only part of black history. NO! Black history is just as much part of my history as it is LesLeigh’s, because if it hadn’t been for people like the Loving’s, who weren’t afraid to stand up for their interracial relationship, then LesLeigh and I wouldn’t be allowed to be together. If it hadn’t been for people like Jackie Robinson, then some of my favorite athletes wouldn’t have been allowed to play sports alongside white athletes. If it hadn’t been for men like MLK Jr. then who knows, we may still have segregated water fountains.
MLK Jr. said in his famous speech, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color or their skin, but by the content of their character.” This is how we should all look at people. Not as black, white, Asian, or Hispanic, but by their character. Let’s strive to get beyond the skin color, and really start seeing people as just that… people.
I have a dream, that one day we will not need a month to celebrate black history, but that everyone would recognize and see that black history is our history, and should be celebrated for all 12 months.