Can we confine the entire history of a race to just one month? 

Mia Mitchell, Contributer

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Can we confine the entire history of a race to just one month?

In 1976, Gerald Ford made it official. Every February, the shortest month of the year, is Black History Month. Its purpose is to celebrate the achievements of black people who may be overlooked. But what really happens at schools and communities during this “celebratory” month?

Not much. Typically, we highlight the excellency of a few famous black people like Langston Hughes, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jackie Robinson. Then, we may talk about the “blues” or literature from the Harlem Renaissance. If people are a little more progressive in their celebratory practices, they may mention apartheid in South Africa or Jim Crow laws in America.

As a black woman, I feel we have a long way to go with completely acknowledging the complexity of our race. Black History Month is full of the cliches about black history and doesn’t talk about the problems of today. There is the lingering impact of Jim Crow laws, like cyclical poverty, red-lining, and police brutality just to name a few. Those are problems are rarely mentioned in the lessons during Black History Month and any history class. And they rarely mention who is at fault for black people being ten steps behind the rest.

Others feel the same about having February be delegated for Black History. The most famous critic is Morgan Freeman. In a 2005 interview on 60 Minutes Freeman considered Black History month to be “ridiculous.”

Black history is American history, plain and simple. So, it should not be confined to a single month. In my mind, having it confined to one month implies that the 11 other months are delegated for celebrations of the majority. Also, pointing out certain hardships that we’ve overcome still affirms the idea that Black people are separate from the entire American experience. It’s the reaffirmation of our minority-inferiority status.

There needs to be more reintegration of black culture into the typical American history education. Unless you take an advanced history class, you never learn about race riots, the New Deal’s discriminatory practices, and the fact that lynching wasn’t made a federal crime until last year. Even so, if we still continue to have Black History Month, it should encourage an America to aim for greater equality, fixing the problems that we still have, rather than recognizing the ones we have overcome. But this celebratory month, as it is, just hurts black people more than fixes the problems that we still face.