As a child, I marveled that for one week, we learned the contributions of Black people, mainly about Harriett Tubman and George Washington Carver. Later, after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. died, nearly every February his life and words were celebrated.
I realize that the works and contributions of Black Americans are important for all American children to learn. But I wrestle with the thought that African American history is still only studied one month out of the year, rather than being incorporated into the history books.
Ninety-three years after Dr. Carter G. Woodson created Black History Week, and forty-three years after the week was expanded to Black History Month, I am amazed to find that Black history is not considered American history, and therefore still needs a separate month to be discussed.
I am sure some people will think that I shouldn’t encourage ending Black History Month, and I assure you that I am not advocating that at all They would think that if it ended, then children may not learn anything that blacks have done for the country. But that is precisely my point.
I realize that history books must be concise and cannot cover every momentous occasion or invention. Yet, America history has been 243 years in the making, and blacks have been part of the nation since the 17th century. How can history books be written that do not acknowledge all of the diversity of peoples and their roles in making America the nation it has become, so that we need a separate month.
Having a separate month for each of the racial and ethnic groups to celebrate their contributions simply highlights the second-class citizenship of racial and ethnic groups in America. November is Native American Heritage Month and from September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month.
Again, I am not advocating ending the different celebrations of various racial and ethnic groups. This is especially true because then we may not learn anything about the rich heritage and contributions of members of the different groups. I am just saddened that there is still a need for these separate celebrations.
We are all Americans, and we share a history that is neither pretty nor warm and fuzzy. But, our greatness has always been the people who worked together across perceived differences to ensure that the rights in the Constitution are extended to all, whether through protests, sit-ins, voting drives, and, yes, by losing their lives. That history should not be separated into different months, as though we are separate nations.
We are “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all,” But, the reality is that as long as race and ethnicity are used to divide us, dehumanize some and demonize others, we must continue to be reminded each February, November, and September and October that people of color have helped make this great and racially colorful nation what it is today.
So, Happy Black History Month to you all! May you be inspired by the stories of courage, determination, and perseverance available this month!