Welcome, February

My freshman year in college, I posted a poem I'd written in honor of Black History Month. Someone I went to high school with posted his opinion that Black History Month should be done away with, because "it made him feel bad." I was livid. You ever get so mad you can't speak? That was me; I just wanted to reach through the computer and strangle this guy. Unfortunately, my anger prevented me from being able to explain to him 2 very important things: why Black History Month is important and why it doesn't matter if it made him feel bad.

For starters, feeling bad is a personal problem. I feel bad when I hear that children are starving, when I hear that people are being kidnapped and/or sold in human trafficking rings. I felt bad when I read the diary of Anne Frank, when I read about the Trail of Tears. It doesn't change the fact that these things happened (or are happening in some cases). Are you going to stop teaching about the Holocaust because someone's grandfather was a Nazi supporter and they feel bad hearing what their grandfather supported? He claimed he felt bad because he thought is ancestors were slave owners, but then it turned out they weren't and he had suffered guilt upon learning the things he thought his ancestors did. That's unfortunate (I's not like he was there to stop them; I don't know why he should feel guilty about something he had no control over), but I know my ancestors were slaves. Just like I know Anne Frank died at the hands of Nazis. Just like I know countless Native Americans died at the hands of the colonists. It doesn't matter that it's painful to hear; it matters that it happened.

There are 365 days in a year. In South Carolina (and possibly other states), children go to school for 180 of those days. Most of this time is spent teaching European history. Almost every name I heard in school belonged to a white person, usually a man. We didn't read books written by black authors and the only thing they taught of black history (in Black History Month, of course) is that we were slaves and then there was the civil rights movement. It's sugared up so as not to offend and brushed over. By the time I was in high school, it wasn't Black History Month anymore; it was Multicultural Awareness Month. Unfortunately, for the people like my classmate who would rather pretend we weren't here, black people are here and have been here. Furthermore, there's a whole lot more to black history than Martin Luther King, Jr. and Harriet Tubman. I deserve to be included in the history lesson, too. I deserve to see how my ancestors contributed to the shaping of the United States of America, too. I, too, am America! As for multicultural awareness, I agree that lots of cultures have shaped the country and their stories deserve being told as well. However, I don't agree that we should just get rid of Black History Month and stuff everyone in to it. Europeans get 180 days of focus and you want to cram all the minorities into the shortest month of the year? I don't think so. In a perfect world, everyone would get their due time in the spotlight and a specified month would be unnecessary. It's not a perfect world and in a nation where the image of black people is defined by slavery, civil rights, and hip-hop/rap, Black History Month is strongly needed. I leave it to my fellow minorities to champion their history to their liking.

For the next 28 days, whether you feel bad or not, I will be observing Black History Month. I'll be looking for current (and maybe a few past tense) blacks shaping the US and society in general. Black people come in all shades, sizes, and personalities (something mainstream America tends to forget). I'm taking February 2014 as the opportunity to highlight the many different shades of black that exist. 

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