Another Black History Month. . .not that there's anything wrong with that.
But after all these years -- 45, to be exact, and if we are also counting the years of Black History Week, we are looking at a grand total of 89 years of segregating the achievements of Africans and their descendants -- isn't it time that white privilege relinquishes its stronghold on the other 11 months of the year and invites us in?
As I'm sure you know, Black History Week was established by historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926. He chose the 2nd week of February, so the story goes, because the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln were in this month. Now the end-game was not to have a Black History Week into perpetuity, but to incorporate teaching of the accomplishments of enslaved and formerly enslaved Africans and their descendants, African Americans, in America's public school curriculum. And -- sadly -- as this did NOT happen during the 44 years of its existence, in 1970, leaders of the Black United Students at Kent State University proposed the expansion of the week to a Black History MONTH. Six years later, the U.S. government officially recognized this expansion and in the ensuing 39 years, apparently our country is STILL more comfortable with allotting one month of half-baked treatment of African American accomplishments and history rather than another 11 months of fully-realized curriculum expanded from the same old white-washed -- and I do mean that literally -- de-contextualized stories parroted ad nauseam from year to year.
This year, the movie "Selma" is probably the closest thing this country will have to a more nuanced, contextualized, pivotal slice of history told from an African American point of view -- for what its worth (and hey, I loved the film!).
But -- as a friend of mine said -- the fact that the words "white supremacy" and "COINTELPRO" were never uttered during the film -- not once -- says so much about where we are as A People in America: that we, African Americans, STILL feel so buffeted by white supremacy, so afraid even in our own spaces, that we STILL would rather soft-sell and provide a light sugar-coating to Truth so as not to offend or turn-off others in the marketplace . . . even in the midst of what we consider truth-telling.
Sadly, it says so much about where we STILL are as a country: that Truth about the history and ongoing impact of racism in America, in its ugly, unvarnished form, STILL needs to be spoon-fed, in small doses, to people who would STILL rather believe that "race" has little to nothing to do with Black People being gunned down by police; or racialized economic inequities; or the daily micro-aggressions that African Descendants are continually told to "get over."
And maybe it also says -- more than anything else could -- why we are STILL "celebrating," 89 years after its inception, ONE month for "Black History" as opposed to honestly and unflinchingly incorporating it into the other 11.