What’s the Point of Black History Month?
I was passed an article late this week called, “Why I Loathe Black History Month.” The author of the article’s main argument is that Black folks themselves have made Black History Month meaningless. That got me thinking…
How do you feel about Black History Month? Do we even need it?
To be clear, I like Black History Month. I think that it’s a good idea to dedicate time to honoring specific things like Black History. I even spoke at a Black History Month Program earlier this week. Going further, I think Valentine’s Day is a good idea (when not commercially exploited). I think Mother’s Day is a great idea. I like birthdays as well.
With all that said, I think that she is partly right and partly wrong. She is right in saying that the way that Black History Month is often talked about and celebrated is wrong. In my opinion, we should focus less on recycling the same trivia questions (who really invented this or that) and more on how people today fit into our illustrious history in ways that they may not have been aware of. For example, I would love to see more Black History Month celebrations in which people today could talk about their accomplishments, using themselves as present-day examples of history for their audiences. These people could serve as the models for the “specific agendas” to address modern-day racial issues that the author calls for, and could have more impact with certain audiences than an elder talking about seemingly distant events from yesteryear.
The author is wrong, however, in condemning the Month due to the what she sees as it’s careless execution in recent history. Why doesn’t she take ownership of what she sees as a bastardization of what should be “more or less a combined State of the Union address and battle plan…”? This attitude of giving up on something powerful is exactly the attitude that the authors and forebears she mentions did not have when facing the challenges of their day. By taking this stance, she is taking “the easy way out” the same way that the people she criticizes are. I hate when people take the position that people should abandon something that they claim to believe has value.
We absolutely need Black History Month as a way to infuse Black consciousness into today’s discourse. We need it to serve as a springboard for ways to make it part of the permanent discussion year round. Finally, we need less people complaining about that not happening and more people working to make that happen.