It’s halfway through February (it was half way through February when I started writing this) and every one knows what month February is……. Heart Disease Awareness Month!!!!!! And of course Black History Month. In my soon to be 22 years of life I can pretty much sum up what each BHM has been to me: A bunch of random facts about Black people writing stuff, inventing stuff, improving stuff, and starting stuff. As a child this was good because how else would I have known that a black man invented the stop light? But the older I got the more I realized that BHM was not just a time where I learned about great things black people did for this [American] country it was the only time I heard about the great things Black people did. It’s a good thing to have a month dedicated to honor my people, but it should not be an excuse for Black, or any other non-Whte group, history to be ignored the other 11 months of the year. I’m sure when Carter G. Woodson pushed for the idea of “Negro History Week” he wanted it to be a starting point for expansion, not a cap. And yes I am fully aware that Negro History Week has been expanded to FOUR whole weeks instead of one, but no matter how many months Black History gets honored we must never get caught up in the timeline.
So here’s a few ways we can avoid the fallacy of equating facts involving Black people with Black History:
1. Realize that these people were Americans
The things that our ancestors (and I say OUR because we all are drawn from the same family tree somewhere back in the line) did were
beneficial to ALL Americans, not just black ones. I think learning about the pioneer who perfected the blood transfusion (Dr. Charles Drew) is just as important as learning about who signed the Declaration of Independence. Black children should not be the only ones taught about the great things these Black-Americans accomplished. White, Asian,and Hispanic kids should also learn about all the great things these Americans did.
2. Stop using February as the only time to talk about Black people doing stuff
Crispus Attucks is considered one of the first men to die for this country. I don’t think there is anything more patriotic than that and what I learned from living in this country is there isn’t a wrong time for patriotism. I never understood why the Martin Luther King story or Malcolm X the movie couldn’t be shown on MTV in the middle of September. I mean, Dr. King and Brother Malcolm both fought racism all year long. SO why do we only get the cute posters with their quotes broadcast on TV come February. DO we only talk about the Civil War or the American Revolution only in August? NO! We talk about those wars whenever we got doggone feel like talking them.
3. Stop treating February as an allowance for Blacks to proud of their heritage
I am very much aware of the allowance blacks are given in February. It’s basically the only time in the year we could walk around wearing Black Panther berets and an Africa necklace and not get questioned or have the police called on us. We can basically have as many parades and TV programs in celebration of our rich heritage as we want in February but the second March hits it’s time to stick all the banners, confetti, and afro picks back in the closet until next year. As Americans, we are allowed to celebrate our “freedom and justice for all” any day we so choose to. As long as you’re waving an American flag well gosh darn it! you’re just being a good American, but any time you wave an African flag outside of February you’re considered being “too focused on race” or being “too militant.” If you are proud of your history and your race’s heritage then you should be able to celebrate it any month you so choose and not be constricted to one month.
4. Realize the celebration of Black History is for everyone
This one kinda goes back to point 1 but just because you’re not black doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate Black History [365 as Mickey D’s puts it]. The fruits of those pioneers’ labor are not just enjoyed by blacks, they are enjoyed by citizens all across the globe. I’m not saying you HAVE to celebrate black history but don’t think because you’re not black that you can’t celebrate the accomplishments of these great people.
5. Acknowledge that Black History is happening every day
Black History is not just about stuff that people did way back when or about Black people doing big things [i.e. becoming President of the United States]. Black History, just like every other history we celebrate in this title-obseesed country, is about people doing extraordinary things in the present. Even if your extraordinary is just being the first in your family to get a college degree or starting a non-profit to help kids in need in your neighborhood. Extraordinary has no time constraint and can come in all shades of human. Black History at its core is just a celebration of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
“Take up the whole armor of GOd, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”-Ephesians 6:13