Do We Still Need Black History Month?

by Dena Leichnitz

Starting next month, we will have to hear from angry conservatives talk about how Black History Month is racist and why don’t we have White History Month?

Such a question is utterly ridiculous and goes to show how insecure and vapid a lot of people are.  I am sorry did no one teach you about George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Jonas Salk, Marie Curie, John Locke, or Eleanor Roosevelt? “White history” as they like to call it is still the main history learned about in American history classes.  Now give me the rundown on Charles Drew, Patricia E. Bath, Garrett Augustus Morgan, Jan Ernst Matzeliger, or Elijah McCoy.

If these last five names don’t mean anything to you but you know exactly who the first six are, then yes there is a need to learn Black history. The five people I mentioned are not some obscure people who did obscure things that have no impact on our lives today.  In fact, Patricia E. Bath is still living.  So the next time you go get laser eye surgery, give a nod of thanks to Patricia, you wouldn’t have had it without her.

So I am going to answer some of the questions that are often asked about Black history month, in order to help you understand what it is and why it is important.

Why are Blacks the only one with a history month? No one else has one. 

Actually, they do. Almost every “minority” has their own month. It is now time people learned what month is theirs and utilize it like the Black community does with their month. Until all people are integrated into American history, we will continue to need these “months” to highlight the parts of history that are often ignored.

The Months

February: Black

March: Irish

May: Asian Pacific History Month

June: Gay and Lesbian (the only month that is based on behavior and not an actual culture)

Mid-September to Mid-October: Hispanic History

November: Native American

So as you see half the year is filled with some kind of history month. Now that you know which month is yours celebrate it.

Me and Ernest L. Thomas (Raj from What’s Happening) at Crenshaw Mall

We already know about slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King has a holiday, what else is there to know?

There is a lot more to Black history than slavery and the Civil Rights movement. Do you know about Mae Jemison, who was the first Black woman astronaut?  Or how about Ronald McNair who was killed in the Challenger accident? Do you know about Madame C.J. Walker, who started her own hair care line and became the first woman millionaire of any color? How about Sarah Boone who invented the broom?  Let’s not forget the slave, Onesimus who gave us the first vaccine.

People want to concentrate on slavery and the Civil Rights movement because that fits their narrative.  If you walked out of your house and looked at a traffic light and thought “A Black man invented that.”  If you were at your home sweeping and took a second to think, “This was invented by a Black woman.” you might begin to see the Black community as more than just government dependents. And racists on both sides of the aisle don’t want you to see them in that light.  Black history is important because for 28 days you are able to see the contributions from a culture that may not be yours.

You guys are equal now, why do we have to learn about Black history?

Okay so because we are equal now history becomes irrelevant. Then we shouldn’t learn about Neil Armstrong or FDR because we are all equal now. We shouldn’t learn how Kennedy abated the Cuban Missile Crisis or how we fought a war in 1848 and got Mexico out of the deal, none of that matters now right?

In fact, it is because we are equal now that our history should matter just as much as anyone else’s. That fact that we are equal now (under the law at least) should not push us further back but further ahead.  It’s true, many White pioneers also get conveniently forgotten like Nikolai Tesla, from which Thomas Edison pretty much stole everything and all that was left was a legacy of a crazy man. However, that doesn’t mean we should then justify it when it happens to other people as well.

Nikolai Tesla has had a resurgence in popularity these last few years, don’t others who have been tossed to the side deserve the same recognition he does? No one is saying White History should go away or that contributions made by White people should never be remembered. We are just saying we want our contributions remembered right beside yours.

You guys dominate entertainment and athletics, why isn’t that enough?

One has nothing to do with the other. It is like saying White people dominate corporate America, why isn’t that enough? Because history teaches us where we have been so we know where we are going. People act like learning about another person’s history demeans their own, it does not.  I am applying for a job to teach Chinese children how to speak English. So no doubt, I am going to have to research China, their culture, and history to really comprehend how to reach these students and to better understand them. That excites me! There is nothing demeaning or demoralizing about it.

We should all want to learn about cultures that are not our own. Why should I feel anxious about it? I get to learn something I never knew before. That is a wonderful thing and something that should be cherished.

So in the end, do we still need Black history month? Yes, we do.  As conservatives (or Constitutionalists as I see myself) there are many Blacks who shared the same values. Why not seek their stories out and share them with people we know, especially young Black men and women who may not know those stories. It helps to keep their memories alive and we help to carry on their legacy as well. What more can you ask for?

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