Black History Month

I saw this article on The Root this morning.

Apparently there are a good number of people who believe that, since America put an African-American in the White House, we can stop pretending to care about Black History Month.

Now, to be fair, I don’t think our country’s use of Black History Month is enough at all. I don’t think many people remember that it is Black History month, and if they do, don’t particularly care or know anything about Black History. And the idea of separating one group out, and only for a month, seems pretty lacking. And it seems that the only thing that its really used for is HBO specials or teaching an extra unit in elementary school. Not that those things aren’t important.

Yes, Black History is American History too. But people in America don’t have the same experiences, and people living in privilege have a pretty good history of silencing and ignoring those who don’t. Yes, we elected Barack Obama. But NO, we are NOT living in a post-racial society. Racism is still alive and well, even when its subtleties are harder to detect. Obama’s presidency doesn’t diminish the importance of Rosa Parks or Malcolm X or Sojourner Truth or Frederick Douglas. I believe that we must know our past in all its complications. We cannot forget their struggles or the ongoing struggles today.

If anything, maybe Black History Month should be reconsidered and more out in the open, more in focus, more in the dialogue. It should be connected with what’s going on today. What has changed? What hasn’t? How can our understanding of Black History help us answer these questions?

As Afi-Odelia Scruggs writes, ”

[T]he importance of Black History Month transcends its emphasis on race. It’s one of the few times in the year when the nation—the nation—is encouraged to plumb its past. Americans are an ahistorical society. We’re always searching for the new thing. Thus the observance benefits us all by sharing the stories of folks who overcame the odds against them.

Having a month designed “Black History Month” isnt going to magically solve any problems. But the fact of the matter is, a lot of Americans don’t think of race on a daily basis, and certainly not of history. POC are routinely silenced and made to feel like their stories and struggles and contributions aren’t important. And even more, for WOC. Even WITHIN progressive or feminist communities. And if Black History Month sheds a little more light on them, or gives white people a little pause, its more than worth keeping around. If it helps in not allowing white people to selectively forget racist or privileged aspects of their own lives, it is a success.

Take the time to read up on, or write about, or reflect on important events in our history and in black history. Maybe take a look at it from a legal context. A social or political one. A feminist angle. Maybe read some bell hooks. Or musical! Listen to some Mingus or Armstrong, Hendrix or Pac. Any angle that interests you! Just Listen. And Share.

A random assortment of links:

U of Washington African-American History Library

Black Facts

Angry Black Bitch (blog)

Afronerd (blog)

The Root

The Black Snob (blog)

Explore posts in the same categories: Activism, POC, silence

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