Black History Month is drawing to a close, but as most any person who cares about Black culture will tell you; Black History stretches so far beyond 28 days. Even though Black History Month is a great notion the way many of us approach Black History Month is pretty screwed up. If we’re not making fun of it or ignoring it outright, we recycle the same speeches on Rosa and Martin with a little Harriet Tubman or Malcolm every once in a while and a dash of Pres. Obama thrown in to show that we’re “post racial”. Black History Month has moved away from being a time where we learn about our history and just became something we have to do to be politically correct.
Perhaps for good reason. The truth behind the treatment of darker skinned folks is enough to change the perception of a lot of history’s “heroes”. It’s hard to look at Christopher Columbus or the majority of US presidents the same way once you start realizing how they treated Black folk. However the purpose of these history lessons are not to make people mad or cause division like so many people believe, but to make us face our troubled past in order to learn from it and try to ensure it never happens again. Any shrink worth his/her salt will tell you that you have to face your issues and problems or you’ll never truly be over them, and learning about Black history is just one of the many ways to face this country’s violent past.
Yet people are livid at the idea of exposing the negatives of American history. Those passionate about true history are almost constantly told to forget about America’s violent behavior, especially it's treatment of people of color. There is this belief that talking about true history is counterproductive and will just keep people apart. Now yes, I will readily admit that after watching stuff like Rosewood or Roots I wasn’t in the most feel good mood, but this is history. You cannot hide it just because it is uncomfortable. I can pretend that my high school years didn’t happen as much as I want, but that doesn’t change the fact that they did. Only by dealing with what happened and facing the past will you ever be able to move forward from it.
Unfortunately, many schools believe the exact opposite It is becoming a trend that history is amended and sanitized to gloss over the bad stuff. When 200+ years of slavery and Jim Crow are reduced to a chapter or less in a US History book we have a problem. When people actually say that they don’t want to teach a subject that makes America look bad we have an issue. Now, I’m not gonna get into how backwards secondary education is nowadays (that’s a post in itself), but I will say that this is NOT good for our kids’ understanding of the world. When you have college freshmen who can’t name any Civil Rights leader besides Martin Luther King Jr. or who are telling you that we fixed racism you know that something is being left out of their education. I know it would take a miracle to reform our education system so that high school teachers are teaching subjects and not the tests, so why don't we try to combat that by teaching our kids outside of school?
I know that happened with me. In addition to teaching me vocabulary words on a daily basis my Dad has a bookshelf full of books specifically on Black history that I can remember him teaching me facts from when I was just a little kid. Since I went to a predominately Black elementary/high school and a historically Black college we always had Black history month events that supplemented what I learned at home. Both of my parents made sure that I learned things outside of just the school, and I know I can attest a lot of my knowledge to those words and facts that I learned. Not everyone will be as lucky to attend schools that heavily promote Black history, but everyone has parents, family members, friends, church members and the like who can teach them. It is our job to step into whatever role we place in each other’s lives and teach them.
That is the idea behind the African proverb of “Each one teach one”, that is the purpose behind gaining knowledge; to share it with others. We must be able to reach back and fetch the information we have lost and share it with the youth and other people. How? Well, as I often say, “Google Knows All” and even though some aspects of Black history have been buried by time, there is still plenty out there to learn. Take for example the existence of the 21 Black owned banks left in the country, or some of the ancient African rulers who set the foundation for civilization; both of those are just a click away. I know that I made it my mission to dig up lesser known facts every day this month to post to my social media. Beyond this month I always try to let some of what I have learned about the world seep over into my teaching as well. This is the call that we must follow. I can only imagine what I would be like if my parents had not taken the time to teach me when I was younger, and judging by the number of Black parents homeschooling their kids, a lot of other people want their children to have that same experience. Don’t let your interaction with Black history be limited to February, and even then it shouldn’t be limited to the “old standbys”. If we do not value and pass on our culture it will disappear; why would we sit back and let that happen?
What are some little known Black history facts that you learned this month? What can we do to make sure information like this is passed on to our youth? Leave you comments, questions and concerns below and make sure you like, share and subscribe!