Saturday, February 1, 2014

For 28 days, America remembers before it forgets again

Black History Month is with us again and it’s another opportunity to get our kids a part of education that’s increasingly ignored by most public school systems. When I was in school it seemed like a great deal to remember but it also seemed odd. Why did we only talk about this stuff in February?

It was as if Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr or Malcolm X only did memorable things in February. Couldn’t equality have been achieved much sooner if they worked the rest of the year?

As an adult, of course, I understand the scope of what they did. But at the time, that’s how it was taught. You never heard those names outside those short 28 days.

We also got a lot of inventors or firsts. That’s when names like Garrett Morgan, George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington came in. That’s all well and good, but what about everyday African Americans?

Wouldn’t the right thing to do be to cover all American history all the time? Carter Woodson created Negro History Week because he saw how the country ignored events that were important to him. From there it expanded to the entire month. Now another expansion is needed.

Wouldn’t it be great to teach history that didn’t go straight from “blacks were slaves” to “blacks had sit ins” to “racism is totally destroyed because we have a black president?” Perhaps when you teach the real history of everyone, no one feels left out. But that’s not what’s happening. And to a school age child, it just seems like an add on. It keeps them detached from the real history of the country.

I know what America did to those of African descent is painful. The fact that it’s still happening albeit in different ways is appalling. But we could break the cycle right here, right now. We cannot change the past and the future is still a dream but there is power in the now. Shouldn’t we decide now to fix this?

And it’s easy. We can accept African American history as American history. We can confront past bad acts, acknowledge that they occurred and vow to make sure they don’t happen again.

Here’s the best part. We can move forward together. That seems better than telling an entire group of people that, based on the melanin content they were born with, their past is only important for only 28 of 365 days.

No comments: