So it has been brought to my attention that Black History Month is upon us again. Sadly we are forced to deal with this racist cop-out of an idea. Black History Month presents itself as a way to achieve equality between the races, and a chance to promote and teach black history in the United States, and even in Canada. This is total B.S.
Black History Month does nothing more but segregate history in the minds of children. There is 'real' history, and then there is 'black' history, is the message it subtly sends. When it comes to North America, to Canadian and the United States, Black history IS the history of our two nations, or at least a very important part of it. As is European history, Asian history and Native history.
I'm not sure of how Black History Month is taught today, but when I was in high school we learned about the civil rights movement and peanut butter. Slavery was lightly glossed over (many people today do not realize that Canada had slaves as well. It is a shameful part of out history, but it is still a part none the less, and should be remembered and taught). For the most part until I decided to educate myself, by the way it was taught it never occurred to me that Egypt is in Africa. Cleopatra looked like Elizabeth Taylor after all, right?
As I mentioned Black History Month is all about segregation. Here is history, and this is the history for the black students. Here is the water fountain, and here is the water fountain for the black students. I'm betting one of the previous two sentences managed to make some people rather uncomfortable. Both should have.
Before I started writing this I made a little update on Facebook telling people that I was going to be writing about Black History Month, and to not judge what I write until you read it. I did this for a reason. I wanted to see people's reaction. It ran the gauntlet from people asking if the world needs another white person criticizing Black History Month, to someone else suggesting calling it “Humanitarian Month”, while others saying we should teach that racism is just as bad coming from black people as when it comes from white people. One person even commented that the fact that I asked people to not judge until I finished writing this was telling in itself. All this over teaching history.
We are so focused on the most trivial of things to the point that we seem to be always dividing ourselves up and missing the bigger picture. Is a black man a black man, or is he a man? Is a Catholic man a Catholic man, or is he a man? If you ask the Klu Klux Klan both black man and Catholic man are not really men at all, and something to be scorned. Am I a white man? An Irish man? A Canadian man? Other than us all being individuals does my skin define me as a different man than you? Does your skin make you a different man than I am? My cultural roots run deep within me, and helped shape who I grew into. There is nothing wrong in my having pride in who I am, who my family is and where we are from. These things helped me grow into a man. No matter what colour your skin is if you work hard, you try to educate yourself, you help to provide for your family, then you are my brother or sister. There will always be a space for you at my table. I hope there will always be room for me at yours.
If black history was better incorporated into the normal curriculum of history classes it would be better learned by students, slowly being dished out all year long. To attempt to cram the history of a large part of the population all into just one month makes it harder to learn, understand and remember. It would also stop people from saying things like “When is White History Month?” It would give children a better understandings of who they are, who the person sitting next to them is, and teachers could gloss over things like peanut butter and get into more important topics.
If a class was learning about World War II then in that lesson for the week include the contributions of black and Native soldiers with the white ones. We all bled together, shouldn't we learn about it as a whole? When looking back at the 50's and 60's shouldn't we then talk about the civil rights movement and how it changed the country, rather than skim over it and wait until February? Was Dr. King's dream to have "the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood” but have segregation of our history?
History classes should encompass all history of a nation. Here is the history of our nation in the 1st century. Here is what happened in the 17th century and so on. Students, parents, teachers and future employers should be asking, demanding, more incorporated history be taught in schools. We settled so easily on this segregated way of teaching, this flawed idea, that now for a lot of people the very act of teaching history that should be taught, that needs to be looked at and learned seems to bring out such controversy.
I don't want a Black History Month. I don't want a White History Month, or any history month based on the colour of someone's skin. My history is just as important as your history. Your history is just as important as my history. I would rather fight for a year long quality incorporation of our shared history than have it split up like this.
There, I've tossed in my two cents. Feel free to rip me a new one now.