Celebrate Black History

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I’m just going to come out and say that white people in the US have a funny – no – deceitful way of rewriting history. Like, Thanksgiving did not go down the way our kindergarten teachers taught us it did.

One of the things that really struck me when traveling through Germany, was how many monuments are left that remind the people of the horror that took place in the Holocaust. They don’t seem to bury their sins, but instead have daily visual reminders of the horrendous things their ancestors did, so as never to repeat the injustice.

We don’t do that. We have a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day to reflect on what a great man he was, but we get really uncomfortable when we have to face the reality of what he was fighting against. We pretend that we’re better. We’re evolved, but are we? We share things on twitter and facebook and maybe we even go to a march or two, but what are we doing to really learn, own up to our past, and create a better future?

The same could be said of Black History Month. We say, “oh sure, let’s give them a whole month to celebrate their heritage” (which I’m reminded by Adewole that it’s the shortest month of the year). But we’re not doing this to dig into history, we do it to rewrite history; to talk about the good, the beautiful, and the heroic.

Of course, these stories should be promoted and celebrated all year. Our American history books should be full of people of all colors, because that’s the reality of this country’s story. We are who we are because of who we were. So much of that is a rich and culturally diverse story, which absolutely should be praised and revered.

But one, it should be a history celebrated all the time, not just in February.

“Black history is American history. And if we treat it like it is foundational to this country, as it is, we won’t relegate it to just 28 days, and we will rediscover all of the people, places, things, moments, and movements that sparked the creation of the country as it exists today. And that’s why we should be making sure that we’re telling the Black story in the fullness of the American story, not just this month, but always.” – Brittany Packnett, Pod Save the People Podcast

And two, history is not all rainbows and butterflies, and it’s important not to sugarcoat or whitewash the truth.  For instance:

“Research conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2017 shows that our schools are failing to teach the truth about African enslavement. Only 8 percent of high school seniors surveyed can identify slavery as the central cause of the Civil War. Two-thirds (68 percent) don’t know that it took a constitutional amendment to formally end slavery. Fewer than one in four students (22 percent) can correctly identify how provisions in the Constitution gave advantages to slaveholders. The truth is clear if we choose to see it.” – Five Truths About Black History, ACLU

So yes, let’s celebrate the Black artists, athletes, revolutionaries, politicians, writers, inventors, educators, historians, musicians, and heroes of today and years past, like Shirley Chisholm, Stacey Abrams, President Obama, Michelle Obama, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglas, Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Beyonce, George Washington Carver, Carter G. Woodsen, and the list goes on! Let’s remember and celebrate the good and the beauty.

But let’s not also forget where we came from, and continue to ask ourselves how we make our country a place where racial and social injustice really is a thing of history. Our system was built on racism, and whether we want to face it or not, it is still very much a part of the way our society operates. I encourage you to ask questions, dig deeper, make friends that aren’t normally in your social sphere, and get out of the bubble that protects you from uncovering the sins of our forefathers. “To those whom much is given, much is expected” (JFK / the Bible). If you were born into a life of comfort, it’s time to get uncomfortable.

Celebrate Black History

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