I recently had a discussion with a white friend of mine. It started off as many conversations do, with pleasantries, jokes, and commentary on popular culture. Somehow, in the midst of talking about things of no real consequence: sports, movies, music … the subject of Black History Month had to come and taint our conversation with an undeniable discomfort.
“You know, you guys are lucky. Y’all have a whole month dedicated to y’all. Hey … don’t you think it’s only fair to have a White History Month?”
I was appalled. It wasn’t that I hadn’t heard the same question before. I just thought it was one asked by real racists. No upstanding white person, especially not one I associated with, could take such a suggestion seriously … or so I thought.
“Yeah, man … after 400 plus years of systematic prejudice and racism, we sure are lucky to have the shortest month of the year to look back at the past 400 years just to realize we are still here,” I shot back.
The look on his face said it all. He knew it. I knew it. I was about to take him to school.
What I explained to my friend, and am here to explain to anyone else with fair complexion who may hold a similar opinion is simply this: every month is White History Month. The subject of history itself is taught through a Euro-centric perspective in most school systems.
I learned about European kings, czars, dukes and duchesses. I learned about Europe during medieval times, Europe during the dark ages, Europe during the Renaissance. In fact, the only time I ever learned about other cultures was when they affected or were affected by European nations.
Mentions of Africans and Native Americans start around the European colonization of the known world. Even religion is taught with Euro-centric tints. I learned about Greek gods, which in turn became Roman gods, Rome then accepted Catholicism, only to be rejected by Martin Luther. There are no mentions of People of Color belief systems, nor is there much detail about how Christianity has affected them. Not to mention that Black History Month isn’t much to be jealous about.
Black History Month is an extension of Negro History Week, which originated in 1926. Before I learned of its origins, I would have sworn there was a conspiracy behind it being the shortest month of the year.
What is a conspiracy, in my opinion, are the multitude of things that happen in February to distract everyone (myself included) from the fact that it is Black History Month. The first weekend in February was the Super Bowl. The second weekend in February was the Grammys. The third weekend in February was All Star Weekend. And the final week in February was the Oscars. Let’s not forget Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras.
Between all the media coverage, social media discussion and money spent over said events, Black History Month becomes an afterthought. With the exception of December and the capitalist consumerism surrounding Christmas, February is the worst month to schedule any event of historical significance.
And even when it receives attention, Black History Month is on a rather basic level. I will admit, there have been times that I learned something new about black inventors, or just tidbits of interesting information in general, but those times are few and far between.
The two biggest topics taught are often the Civil Rights movement and slavery. There are also frequent mentions of the “first black” person to break through different racial barriers. It’s cool, I get the concept behind it, I really do. However, compared to the depths that we learn about white history, it just doesn’t cut it. We as a people will never go much further without actualization of who we were before colonial slavery.
After a more in depth rundown of all my arguments, my friend and I ended the conversation. I haven’t heard much from him since. My opinions are not meant to upset white people. I only aim to challenge tradition in lieu of progress and crush ignorance along the way.
If we really want to do something historic, how about next year, we do a Black Future Month? With a good understanding of the past, black people can come together to express and share their visions of tomorrow. Now that would be understandably envy inspiring … but hopefully it will just be inspiring.