If it were up to me we would do away with this whole “Black History Month” designation. Apparently I am not the only person, black or otherwise, who thinks this. A recent poll I read on MSN mentioned that Americans are quite divided over this month-long observance. Surprising to some, but not to me, is the fact that while the majority of blacks do support the special month, something like 65%, there are many, like me, who do not.
I have no doubt that a lot of the accomplishments blacks have made in our society would not get any attention had it not been for “Black History Month.” While in the car the other day, my daughter, upon noticing a traffic light, delightfully pointed out that she learned that a black man invented the traffic signal. I was glad to hear that she had learned something like that at school. And were it not for the month-long focus, it is likely she would not have that information.
So then why am I against the 28-day focus? Because it makes it too easy for our society and our educators to forget about black contributions the other 11 months of the year. Because it puts blacks in a special case category, like we are not a part of “American” history, not just Black history. And I am also against it because the designation actually has the opposite effect than the one intended. Rather than making Blacks equal, it makes us out to be special cases, like it is so unusual for us to have achievements that we need to stop for a moment to make note, while for everyone else achievements are normal, so no need to stop the presses. I, and others I know, are often sought out or trotted out by organizations, churches, and schools during this month to come in and speak during this month, as a way of showing how open these groups are. And yet, the rest of the year, often we are ignored.
No, the best way to make this society recognize Black achievement is to make sure that we are included as an everyday part of history, because we were and are. And the same goes for all the other ethnic groups that don’t get the credit they deserve for helping to make this society and our world the place that it is. This single month focus only allows us to separate Blacks from the whole and in the end, that was neither the purpose of this calendar highlight nor has it proven to make a dent in getting society to include minority achievements as a normal part of education. A 28-day focus is too easy. The greater goal is a 365-day effort, not just on Black, and certainly not just on White, but rather a broader acceptance that we could not be where we are, enjoy what we enjoy, without the contributions of a very wide spectrum of colors and ethnicities. Then, and only then, will we be able to have a pride in who we are. Because no matter how you separate me, no matter how noble the intent, you are still putting me off to the side, as if I don’t belong right where everyone else is.