We are several months removed from the 38th Black History Month of the 2013th White History Year.
Hopefully, it will be the last of both.
Perhaps you heard it from Morgan Freeman. Perhaps you heard it from someone else. Perhaps you are hearing it for the first time. Setting aside a month for Black History encourages tokenism and promotes the sort of marginalization that the creation of Negro History Week in 1926 tried to combat.
Black History is American History. American History is Black History. Period.
If history teachers take a break from their chronological curriculum to set up special lessons on African-American History or Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King in February, students learn that there is a separation between those two things. Today, we learn about Black History. When we finish with that, we can go back to learning about regular history. Normal history. Real history.
No teacher says that, but we don’t need to actually say something in order to say something. By setting Black History apart, we teach students and society that it is apart from American History. At best, it’s a nice addition to the rest of history. At worst, an unnecessary diversion from real history.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure we are ready dispose of it quite yet. What does American History look like in high schools across the nation? Is the thread of social reform and economic inequality woven into the tapestry of our nation’s history curriculum?
Or do we watch Saving Private Ryan, showing us that Caucasians defeated Hitler? Do we go through the presidents of the Cold War without seeing the central irony of the fight for democracy abroad while denying it to millions at home? These historical interpretations are probably even worse than learning about Rosa Parks BECAUSE BLACK PEOPLE.
Ultimately, I don’t know if we have the full, accurate, and integrated interpretation of history necessary to make Black History Month obsolete. All I know is that I’ll be happy when we overcome and are free at last of bad history.
See what I did there?
No? Sorry. I’ll show myself out.