Growing up, I thought it was a cool idea that Black people got a month dedicated to us. However, as I grew older I realized the month of February had almost nothing to do with celebrating Black history.
Black History Month is supposed to be the time of the year when we celebrate Black people by acknowledging the many contributions we have made to society, acknowledging some of the struggles we have overcome in this country and learning more about our history. However, this is often overshadowed by other events, such as Valentine’s Day and the Super Bowl.
Instead of celebrating Black History Month during February, the shortest month of the year, it would be better to celebrate Black history throughout the year, by incorporating Black history into elementary, middle and high schools’ curriculums.
During my primary education, I didn’t learn much about Black history beyond slavery, Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks. While it’s important to know about these topics, Black history is more than just three events, and it’s sad that history classes at all primary levels only focus on that part of our history.
I question why history books only focus on Black history when the topic is related to oppression. Focusing on just that aspect is damaging and one-sided for the audience. We are more than just former slaves. Black Americans have contributed so much to this society that without us, society would not be as advanced as it is today. We have been trailblazers in architecture, music, science and so much more.
There is so much more to our history and focusing on two people and one major event gives the audience a warped view of what all Black history entails. For example, Rosa Parks wasn’t the first Black woman to refuse her seat on the bus; it was Claudette Colvin, but the history books given to us in school make us believe something different.
Black history isn’t some alternative version of historical events, it’s history.
Even though a majority of the states don’t require public schools to teach Black history. I should have been able to learn more about my people just as much as I learned about a white Americans during my primary education.
I didn’t learn about Malcolm X ,Shirley Chisholm or the true meaning of Juneteenth until college. I didn’t have the ability to utilize resources, such as doing in-depth research about Black history, until I was an adult because America refuses to acknowledge Black history exists. They rather us know a white-washed version of our history than the truth.
For example, pictures depicting the Civil Rights Movement are often shown in black and white to give the illusion that this event happened a long time ago. In reality, the Civil Rights Movement began in 1954 and ended in 1968, meaning it’s only been 53 years since the era ended. A majority of our grandparents and maybe some of our parents lived through those moments in history.
Also, Martin Luther King Jr. is painted to be this nonviolent civil rights leader, but most people viewed him to be a radical. Primary education history lessons would lead you to believe that this era was filled with peaceful sit-down protests and while that’s partially true, the era consisted of more than just peaceful demonstrations.
To be frank, I’m tired of having to find alternative sources to learn more about my history. I follow an Instagram account that focuses on true Black History to compensate for the history lessons I was supposed to learn during my primary education. Learning about Black history during one’s primary education years should be as normal as us learning about white American history.
Why is it that Black students have to fight for this?
It’s a nice gesture that we have this month that’s supposedly dedicated to Black people, but it doesn’t really mean anything. Black History Month is often brushed aside and isn’t celebrated like it should be. I remember in school we didn’t do much to commemorate this month, besides watching a short documentary about Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks.
This month is just an empty gesture from the government when they could be using this time to actually do something proactive to help the Black community. If this month isn’t going to be used effectively to celebrate Black people and learn about our history, then the U.S government can keep it.