Monday, February 1, 2010

I HATE Black History Month

The title of this article says it all, but I'm going to explain why I hate Black History month.

I guess the simplest reason is that ideally, it seems unnecessary. In an ideal world, our (African Americans, and their descendants, Black Americans) contributions to history should be recognized along side those of European Americans (White Americans), and we all should be learning about the complete history of our country throughout school and our lives. In reality, we are multiple cultures fused at some points where overlap occurs, and told to ignore those inconsistencies. Growing up Black in Detroit, a city whose population predominantly Black despite what you see in movies and on TV, I've been exposed to countless bits of Black history on a regular basis. I've been to museums featuring African American artwork and historical items, taught all about a lot of the Black historical figures and been told how important my ancestors were to this country. Not just in February, but through out the year.

Now, I don't know what is taught in other communities, and especially in predominantly White communities, but I somehow doubt that the same level of attention was given to Black history. Sure, I expect that the major figures were covered: Malcom X, Martin L. King, Jr., perhaps George Washington Carver, but what about Harriet Tubman, the Buffalo Soldiers, the Tuskegee Airmen and all the others? Even if they are taught, during Black History Month, they're taught out of context: our hundreds of years of history in this country is consolidated and taught during a one month period, without being placed along side their contemporary events in this country and the world. In my opinion, this month trivializes those individuals; it reduces them to a once the year footnote that is not treated with the same reverence and importance as the rest of American history.

And what's worse is the big deal that the media, here in Detroit at least, and some others seem to make out of it. I can't go one day in February without hearing about Black History Month and yet still watch television. It just makes me feel that I'm being thrown a bone to acknowledge that my people were important to this country too.

I'd much rather to have been taught, and one day to have my kids be taught African American history as part of American history.

But you know what makes me feel even worse? The fact that I'm sitting here complaining about Black History Month when the Native American people don't even get that much acknowledgement. There's no Mexican American history month either, and God knows I haven't seen the same for Chinese Americans, Indian (as in India) Americans, or Japanese Americans either.

I don't feel this country can be truly united until we fully integrate our combined histories. America was once called the melting pot, where we all became equals, but I'd say that despite our progress we're still pretty far apart.