History is constantly evolving to be more inclusive than it has traditionally been. In light of that, it feels like the current status of Black History Month is outdated at best, and paternalistic at worst.Relegating “black history” to one month of the year implies separate status, as if black history is important for February, but does nothing to impact the things that we learn or, more importantly, teach for the rest of the year. Rather than being seen as full contributors to the whole host of American and global history as it has developed, black history has been consigned to a single, short, month.
An article from The Guardian argued that, in its current state, black history month amounts to little more than hero-worship of a couple of figures. A few significant figures are studied and idolized. Everyone knows Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, but there are many other facets to black history that transcend the Civil Rights Movement, like important, though controversial, contributions to science through Henrietta Lacks or contributions to feminist theory through author and social activist bell hooks.
Black history emerged from a conscious recognition that the contribution of African Americans and black people were being overlooked and blatantly ignored as a part of history. It became an official month of celebration thanks to President Gerald Ford who said citizens should “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history,” according to the government website for African American history month.
Black history month as an opportunity to raise awareness, to highlight black contributions to history that are often overlooked, is a good thing. It is an essential thing. We need it. However, its current status leaves much to be desired.
An argument for black history month is that it allows a platform for stories to be told that might be usually ignored. At least some stories are being told, people are aware that black people have contributed to history. But, in this day and age, why can’t we hope and push for more? We should push for black history to be included and highlighted within American history curriculum, rather than set apart, so that stories of the achievements of the black community will not be overlooked.
Editorials in the “In the Loop” section reflect the majority opinion of the Editorial Board, comprised of five editors.