Friday, February 2, 2007

Black History Month

Yesterday was the start of Black History Month.

Black History Month (BHM) grew out of one woman's desire to celebrate the life and accomplishments of Frederick Douglass. The month is marked by discussions about the history of black people in North America (BHM is also celebrated in Canada), and our contributions in all aspects of culture and society.

There is a growing discussion in America about the relevance and need for BHM, considering the broad spectrum of achievement in this country. People, black and non-black alike, are now openly questioning the need for this particular celebration.

Unfortunately, whenever people question the efficacy of BHM, there are knee-jerk charges of racism leveled at the person asking the question... unless that person is black, when the labeling of "Uncle Tom", Self-hater, Oreo, etc... starts. I won't speak to that today, though... I have other fish to fry.

One problem that I find with BHM, is the cookie-cutter, watered down, Martin-Luther-King-Jackie-Robinson-Rosa-Parks crap, that all of the kids learn in school these days. They get a few blocks of instruction on these no-doubt influential black people and then that's it. I'm not blaming the schools here, but many parents, and I am talking about black parents here, don't do any more than that.

By now, you probably won't be shocked about where I come down in this argument:

I believe that every month is Black History Month. Black people have been involved in the building of this country since before there was a United States. Like all of the various peoples that were involved in creating what became this nation, black people have held a stake since the very beginning. From Jamestown, where the first African slaves in North America were imported, to the Boston Massacre, to Lexington & Concord, to the 1st Rhode Island Regiment at the Siege of Yorktown. We have served valiantly in all of America's wars. We have worked hard and prospered. Black men have been some of our top military commanders and Senators, members of the House of Representatives, Diplomats, respected clergy, business leaders, Educators, Academics, and authors.

For my part, I believe that if you talk about American History, you are already talking about black history... singling out a single month to celebrate what should be celebrated the year 'round demeans all of the things that we have accomplished throughout our history.

Get out your history books.



Janet said...

Yay, I can comment again! What I find more annoying than the cookie cutter stuff is the fact that every year, without fail, some teacher gives his/her students an assignment to write a biographical report on someone about whom all that remains is a name on a patent application and the fact that he or she was black. Every year. These teachers never learn.

Since you mention military incidents and I am in the process of writing questions for our African-American* History Month Quiz Bowl, I'll ask you this. Who was 65 when he became the first black injured in the Civil War?

*Because my irritatingly politically correct library director won't let us call it Black History Month despite the fact that it is the official name.

PunditMom said...

I couldn't agree more. February as Black History Month is then followed by March -- Women's History Month!

Maybe if we focused more on teaching our children real history every month of the year, we'd really be doing something -- does that sound crazy, or what?

DJ Black Adam said...

Well, History overall is taught poorly in public schools. African Americans contributions to American history was and still is largely ignored in schools.

So thus the need for BHM. Now, I admit, when non-blacks get on the anti-BHM, I get a bit peeved, as focusing on that aspect of history when history itself is overall ill taught should be no big deal.

Ideally, History both American and World should be taught more comprehensively.

Grimm said...

Couldn't agree more. History has not changed butunfortunately neither has the teaching.

Educators need to evolve in their teaching and not teach the same stuff they have been for the last 20 years.

Ɯbermilf said...

I don't disagree with anything you say here at all.

Perhaps instead of "Black History Month," or any other "month", we need a "Ways we've been evil, hypocritical bastards month, and what we need to do to fix it and never do it again."

Only I think it would take a lot more than a month.

It's just that as an insulated, comfortable suburban white woman, I don't get the real guts of what happened to Africans and Native Americans the way I got the guts of how immigrants and women were abused from people like my own grandma.

Without that real connection, it's easy for people to say, "yeah, whatever, slavery's over, get on with it." It's like an abusive family member wanting to sweep his/her actions under the rug and not face it.

Sorry I wrote such a long comment.