Is Black History Month still necessary?
- Black History Month has been celebrated every February since its official installation in 1976 by President Gerald Ford, who encouraged the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
- The origins date back to 1915 with the founding of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) by Harvard historian Carter G. Woodson. They hosted national Negro History week in 1926, which eventually made its way to becoming a month-long celebration as it is today.
- According to Pew Research Center, Black History Month has been growing in Congressional popularity since 2016, with the majority of support coming from Democrats. Sixty-four percent of Congress members mentioned the celebration on social media in 2021, which is up from 29% in 2015.
- On February 16, 2022, an elementary school in Indiana sparked criticism for allowing parents to opt their children out of Black History Month learning. Twitter users responded with claims of “white supremacy” and “racism.”
Morgan Freeman stated he 'doesn't want a Black history month because Black history is American history.' He has a point. What America needs now more than ever is a sense of togetherness and unity, not further division and focus between racial groups. Instead of sorting people into different groups, we should all unite and celebrate our collective history, which is plenty rich with native-borns, immigrants, women, and minorities building this country from the ground up.
Separating historical recognition months by race, gender, or sexuality creates another problem: many groups feel left out and neglected. There isn’t a history month for every minority group imaginable; there is no Jewish, Pacific-Islander, Chinese-American, or Arab-American history month. With so many different minority groups in America, it would be infeasible and ridiculous to create a separate month for each of them.
Conversely, if there was a 'White history month,” anyone who celebrated this publicly would be accused of being a White supremacist or racist. It’s a double standard and the very definition of racism to elevate one race as superior while suppressing another due to mischaracterizations associated with that group's skin color (such as believing all White people are racist simply because they are White and, therefore, are unworthy of recognition). This is what Americans sought to eliminate with the Civil Rights Act.
It is much better to simply accept that America is the great melting pot of people that, by necessity, include accomplishments from every race in the building up of this free country. It's okay to have a national, cohesive identity that is not constantly divided by racial groups. Society would benefit greatly should everyone begin to feel appreciated and a part of the same team in the America project.
They say that 'history is written by the victors,' and nowhere is that clearer than in the courses taught in American schools. While US history curriculums in school glorify figures like Christopher Columbus or the founding fathers, they make little mention of the various non-White players who made our country what it is today.
Because of this, people of color might not feel connected with a history course taught from the White perspective, leaving them feeling undervalued and overlooked. It also leaves a void in the collective American knowledge of the past and how we got to where we are today. There is so much intrinsic value in learning all aspects of history, and learning about Black history is vital to understanding our country's story and place in it.
Teaching or focusing on Black history does not negatively affect anyone. The more we learn, the more we grow. The more we know about the plight and cultures of others, the richer we all become. Hate derives from fear and fear from ignorance. Slavery, Jim Crow, and all the other forms of racial discrimination were facilitated by a lack of fundamental understanding of Black people and their culture.
Dedicating an entire month to Black history makes it harder for students to dehumanize people based on skin color, as it encourages empathy and connection. In some ways, society is moving backward in this fight today, and Black history is as important, if not more so, than when it was started in 1976. It is a month meant to honor, teach with joy and celebration the Black historical heroes that emerged triumphant in American history. It remains something we must continue to promote.