“Why do black people get their own month?” “If there was a White History Month, black people would be furious.” “If black people want to be equal, why do they have a month that separates them?”
Nearly every February, these are some of the remarks and comments that I hear about Black History Month–a month that I feel should be celebrated and recognized by everyone. When I was young, I didn’t fully understand the concept of the month either. I would ask myself, “Why is there a Black History Month?”
Then I began to notice some things about our world. I noticed that from the early days of American history, everything has been all about the white man. People of color were, and despite a ton of progress, still are undermined in nearly every realm of society. Black people have endured the inhumane days of slavery and have battled white supremacy through the Civil Rights era.
Today, 37 percent of prison inmates are black despite making up just 13 percent of America’s population. Unarmed black men are being shot and killed on a far-too-regular basis. Our government is led by an overwhelming amount of white males. Simply put, white men rule America every hour of every day of every month of every year.
During Black History Month, we have the opportunity to educate ourselves about, appreciate, and honor the history of black people and their culture. You may still be asking yourself why black people get their own month. Because every other month is about the white man. Our history is already so saturated with whiteness. If we want to continue to progress and become a unified and equal nation, we have to celebrate the contributions and achievements made by black people that so often get overlooked.
Nearly all of America’s history books have been written by the white male. Broadly, this means that our students are learning about our nation from a perspective that is solely white. Black History Month not only provides a platform for people of color to share their stories, but it gives students the opportunity to question and become curious about the storied history.
Yes, I agree that the amount of time spent celebrating black history is not nearly enough. We should be celebrating it every day. Regardless the month, we should be constantly striving to learn about the culture and the history in an effort to knock out the unfairness that exists in society.
But the problem is that we don’t. We don’t celebrate and recognize the accomplishments of people of color on a monthly basis. So we need a month for people to do so. I wish that we didn’t need a month to celebrate, but right now we do. If we do not have a month, the history and accomplishments will be overlooked even more so than they already are.
Thank you to all who have contributed to America’s success. Thank you, Barack Obama. Thank you, Martin Luther King, Jr. Thank you, Rosa Parks. Thank you, Harriet Tubman. Thank you, Frederick Douglass. Thank you, Toni Morrison. Thank you, Langston Hughes.
However, it’s not just the prominent names who have successfully made a difference. It’s the Black Lives Matter protesters. It’s the educators who put a focus on issues of social justice. It’s the phenomenal black lawyers, doctors, teachers, scientists, business people, mothers, and fathers. You’re the ones whose history will one day be celebrated. Embrace the great history. Celebrate it. And keep fighting until the change this country needs is obtained.