Another year, another February. For many, this is the month of love because of Valentine’s Day. But for many others, this month is about highlighting aspects of history not taught in most regular school curricula:Black History Month.
For the sake of clarification, there is no “white history month” because there is no need to have one. Every history class is about white history. The average American student takes four history classes during their school career, learning about the Founding Fathers, the American Revolution and the Great Depression. There are mentions of black people such as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. but they’re mentioned as auxiliary figures relevant during a dark time in the nation’s history, not today.
Black History Month was officially recognized by the US government in 1976, and the president at the time, President Gerald Ford, said it best that, “[Americans need to] seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Black History Month is necessary to highlight the achievements of black Americans that are often ignored. However, this month has morphed into a time in which we merely discuss the same figures. We hear about Rosa Parks who bravely refused to give up her seat on the bus. Although she is an incredibly important woman, she was by no means the only one doing something at that time. There is hardly any talk about the Black Panthers and their efforts in establishing a private transportation system to help black communities successfully boycott racist bus lines. We celebrate the ending of slavery, but there is no talk of the Slave Codes being revised into the Black Codes in which African Americans could be arrested for something as trite as walking around during the night, then sent to prison and made to work for free.
In the four history classes most Americans take, the very real, intense racism that created this country is swept under the rug. For the most part, we do not address these past events, we just talk about great African Americans and nothing else.
This is intellectually disingenuous, and this willful ignorance of past events allows for the continual existence of racism. The answer is not in putting a spotlight on a handful of black individuals for one month and pretending to care. This creates a divide in history, as we remove black Americans from American history in the guise of equality.
Instead, black history should be seamlessly woven into our normal studies. The Harlem Renaissance was not a singular entity, separated completely from the Roaring Twenties; they seeped into each other. White Americans are not living their own history separate from black Americans — nothing good has ever come from separating people based on the color of their skin, and instead of explaining for the umpteenth time why there is no white history month, the new dialogue should discuss how to integrate our histories together so every month is just history month.
Follow Edith Lagos on Twitter: @LagosTacos