Many people believe that celebrating a specific ethnic group is antiquated and unnecessary.
I wholeheartedly disagree with the naysayers because people aren’t naturally inclined to celebrate other cultures.
Let’s be clear.
Black History Month is still important and very necessary.
When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, my teachers covered three topics during Black History Month: Slavery, George Washington Carver, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Since I was the only black kid in many of my classes, I was expected to be the de facto expert on all things Black. This is not a burden that should be thrust upon a child.
I eventually started to dread February. Many kids and teachers would gripe about Black History Month with comments such as, “Why do they have to have their own month?”, “I’m not Black. Why do I have to learn about Black History?” or “Why isn’t there a white history month?”
These questions persist today and it doesn’t feel as if our country has made much progress towards celebrating Black history or culture.
This became painfully evident to me when I went to college.
I purposefully choose to attend an HBCU because I wanted to be in an environment where I wouldn’t have to be the expert or listen to ignorant comments.
At Howard, I learned so much about my history and culture. In fact, I was shocked by how much I didn’t know, was never taught, or was taught inaccurately.
I discovered so many Black inventors, artists, writers, musicians, scientists, and leaders. I learned about the rich history of various African countries and the greatness of Black people across the diaspora.
When I had children, I made a point to teach them about our culture not just during Black History Month, but all year.
We stock our home with Black books, movies, music, art, and toys. It is important for my kids to see themselves in these mediums because representation matters.
After Barack Obama was elected president, people started to believe we were living in a “post-racial society” and celebrating Black History Month was a relic of the past.
Obviously, there is nothing post-racial about America.
The Black Lives Matter protests after George Floyd’s murder taught us that we have a long way to go towards reconciling our racial differences.
I think Black History Month gives us a chance to have open dialogues about race and really get to know one another on a deeper level. We cannot eradicate racism if we do not understand its systematic roots.
I find it ironic that people admire Black culture – food, music, fashion, sports, art – but despise Black people. The disconnect is jarring. It’s as if we’ve been stripped of our humanity and only valued for what we can create.
These are reasons why Black History Month is still important and very necessary.
Black History Month is a time to learn and share. I encourage people of all races to do your part to learn about the contributions that Black people have made to this country, have open, honest discussions with your family about your biases, and do your part to champion Black history and culture during February and beyond.
These actions will go a long way towards closing some of the racial divides that still exist.
As for me, I’m planning several activities during Black History Month to help my children to connect with their past and look forward to their future.
I want to ingrain in them that Black people have a history of excellence and they have the ability to be excellent too.
Black History is American History. The two are forever entwined.