February. You know what that means? The Superbowl? Well yes, that was yesterday, but I am referring to Black History Month. Yes, Black History Month is a month that I always look forward to but it increasingly seems to bring out the worst in people. So I have decided to take it upon myself to answer some questions that come up every year.
1. Why does there need to be a Black History Month?
Black History Month was created as a supplement to what you have learned in school. It is a way of recognizing all of the contributions that African-Americans (besides Martin Luther King, Jr. and Harriet Tubman) have made to this country.
Also some might ask an alternative of the same question: Why does there need to be a Black History Month, there is no White History Month?
Let's be honest, most of the history lessons that we receive in school are Eurocentric. We learn about the Roman Empire, Greek mythology, the World Wars, but how often were we taught anything about Africa or even countries of the African Diaspora? I mean with the exception of slavery, very little. So I guess if you wanted there could be a White History Month, but it would probably be superfluous since every other month seems to be that way already.
2. Why is Black History Month the shortest month of the year?
We can credit Dr. Carter G. Woodson as the father of Black History month. Dr. Woodson was a famed author of many books including the still top selling book The Mis-Education of the Negro. In 1926, he initiated Negro History Week. It was later extended to continue through out the full month of February.
For more information on Dr. Carter G. Woodson :
3. Well now that we have a black president (President Obama) why do we still need Black History Month?
Oh boy. How do I begin? First, the election and re-election of President Obama did not end racial inequality in the United States. Many people say that we are living in a "post racial" society. However, if anything, the election of President Obama has only heightened already tense racial situations. The passage of the Civil Rights Act has not eliminated racism and inequality. Each day there is a new reminder that we have not come as far as we would like to believe. Black face, the use of racially insensitive comments, behavior, and images is still alive and well.
I am a product of the Midwest. I grew up beside white people. I went to school with white people. I called white people my friends. I still do. I am blessed enough to have been able to have been raised in an environment where I have been afforded the same advantages as my white counter-parts. I was also raised to remember our ancestors and the people who fought for me to live the life I live today. I am a lucky one. But not everyone has had what I have had. Not everyone has people surrounding them to teach them about the past. We need positive examples of African-Americans. Our children need to know that our people are doctors, lawyers, and inventors and not just reality tv stars, athletes and rappers. It is important that after Brown v. Board of Education that little black girls don't still look at the brown dolls and believe that they are ugly.
4. Slavery has been over, why does everyone still bring it up?
It is important to reflect on slavery and its repercussions. The fact is that slavery, systematic racism, and racial oppression still have far reaching affects today. The reason why black people test lower and have lower graduation rates, have more health problems and have a lack of efficient health care, higher incarceration rates, and even why we live or don't like in certain neighborhoods is all a result of the effects of slavery.
Some people still want their "forty acres and a mule" that was promised to us. Other people just want an apology. But all of those solutions will not account for the hurt and pain that black people have faced throughout the course of history. So yes, for no we still do need to have a Black History Month to learn about the past and improve the future.
But in case you don't agree with me just see what the cast of Saturday Night Live had to say about Black History Month: