I have two questions for you: Why do we still have Black History Month? What does it mean to "celebrate" Black History Month?
These are questions I've personally wrestled with for the past few years. Yes, I understand the history and intention of it; Carter G. Woodson created Negro History Week in 1926 to educate Americans on the contributions of black people to our country, and to also give black people a sense of pride in who they are and who they come from.
The official version of American history, particularly in how it is taught in schools, has always been Eurocentric and safe; it has always been comfortable. Nevertheless, the preface of "black" to "history" denotes that the history of black people is not the same history as anyone else in America.
News Flash! Black history is American history. Our blood, sweat and tears are in every inch of its foundation and progress.
By separating the accomplishment and contributions of black people, those details become less important than all the other details of American history. We Americans become strangers to the true America. We have treated her as fragmented, instead of whole -- as one. What we as a country need is to redefine how we see our collective history -- as one thread instead of separate strands.
Much of the reason why American history suffers this condition is because of the history books in our schools, which leave out important milestones and people from all minority groups, not just black. In a way, Black History Month gives allowance for history to be taught in a manner that is still segregated today.
After working in public schools for nearly a decade, I have seen countless teachers of all races and backgrounds (including black) take every short cut imaginable though black history: curriculum, projects, games, quizzes and even speeches for students to recite at Black History Month celebrations, all printed from random websites without ever giving the information a critical second look for accuracy or age-appropriateness -- all without truly engaging the students or the information blindly passed to them. It would be pointless if it weren't ultimately harmful to the minds of children -- black, white and everything in between. Of course, not all educators give such little effort, but many are simply going through the motions. If we're going to have this month, we should do it justice.
So how do we celebrate Black History Month? Is it coupons for McDonald's, canned school events, sales on biographies of prominent black people at the local bookstore? I'm not content with throwing confetti simply for the mere existence of these 28 days.
Black History Month 2.0 is long overdue.