I don’t know about other people of color, but this black woman struggled with the answer to the question, “Do we still need Black History Month?” Stacey Dash may have denounced the tradition on Fox News, but it brought up a particular train of thought that caused me to reevaluate the relevance of Black History Month, its impact, and its future.
Don’t get me wrong, my first reaction to what she said was, “Who the hell does Stacey Dash think she is?” Taking away a tradition that many believe is the least this country can do to honor black folks’ achievements is unfathomable. But after calming down and giving the notion some thought, I concluded “no,” we don’t need Black History Month because damn it, we are black all year long. In my view, we are all Americans as Ms. Dash pointed out. We should move toward change where the truth of our American plight it told as-is to all every day.
Now let me explain my reasoning. First of all, I didn’t grow up celebrating Black History Month and outside of what teachers did at school, we didn’t commemorate it in my home. So my personal truth on the matter is I could not care less one way or the other. That doesn’t make me any less black or conscious; I just think we matter more than the 28 days we are given (aside from every four years when we get one extra special day). Stay with me I am going somewhere with this.
At the same time, I do see the value in delving deeper into the history of black people in America, which is what usually happens every February. We are a rich community who lacks cultural norms based on a heritage not influenced by outsiders. I think we are the only group of people that don’t have their own traditions rooted in a native origin. Our connection to Africa is non-existent, and that is a grave misfortune.
Because I cannot get with focusing so much effort during one month of the year on honoring the legacy of black Americans, I agree with Stacey Dash that black history is American history. I mean, what happens after February? Do we just go back to “regular” history?
And that’s how I wrote this article initially. I laid out points and created a damn good argument. To make sure everything was sound and cohesive, I asked for my boyfriend’s opinion, and he could not even finish it. He looked me dead in my eyes and said, “You’re wrong.” Then we argued.
I told him how Black History Month has lost its impact on black culture because we no longer need it. With the invention of social media giving us real life situations as they happen, we are a more conscious generation, and thus, our focus should be on spreading the truth of our greatness 24/7. He disagrees. Not only does he believe this generation is one of the most self-centered and lost groups of people ever to walk the planet, according to him, black people resoundingly need Black History month; especially children. He tells me how Black History Month was a pivotal turning point in his realization of his self-worth as a black man. When he was five years old growing up in Baltimore, he wanted to be a little white boy with long, blonde hair. It was not until a teacher gave him a coloring book during Black History Month with a little black boy on the cover that his thinking changed. He said how many black children only hear or learn about their ancestry during Black History Month and the seeds planted during those four weeks sprout into trees of life that lasts a lifetime. In his view, a little bit of something is a whole lot better than nothing.
And then, my notion about the subject changed. I went from seeing things as someone who has never dealt with moments of self-hate and viewing the world as such, to empathetically understanding the struggle of self-love that countless people experience. All because of the color of one’s skin. And for many black people, their journey to self-empowerment started with a lesson they received during Black History Month.
So yes, we do still need the tradition, because as long as we are considered a lesser race even in today’s progressive society, there will always be a need to remind black children that they are beautiful; that they come from good stock and that they matter.
We are stronger than ever. We are more educated than ever. We are more powerful than ever. Because of these things, continual uplifting, honoring and remembering are what we need. Especially since we still battle against festering racial tensions.
With that, black people cannot let the weight of our children learning their history rest on a system that doesn’t respect our history. We cannot expect our kids’ teachers to be the only ones to do it because remember, history books are whitewashed and “PG.” Our negligence in this area is lazy and widens the knowledge gap of who we truly are.
Black History Month should just be an extension of the consciousness we live every day.