It’s only February 5 and already this month is doing the most. Immigrants from seven predominately Muslim countries were banned, people from all over the country protested, judges said “nah” to the ban, #45 got pissed; the DOJ said they’ll sue, the appeals court said “We SAID…,” Nicki and Drake are back together, Bey and Jay are having twins; Jeff Sessions made it through committee with his sheet intact, Betsy DeVos is still waiting on the bears to explain growth vs. proficiency, the EPA may go up like a puff of smoke, and some “bad hombres” are supposed to get dealt with in Mexico; Black folks met with The Donald, gang thugs want to meet to discuss reducing the body count, gang thugs DON’T want to meet to discuss reducing the body count because, you know, alternative facts, and Frederick Douglass is getting recognized more and more. Y’all, there aren’t enough face palms for all of this.
And yet, there’s more! So, apparently there is an uproar over whether or not DJT OFFICIALLY changed Black History Month to National African American History Month during his listening session on February 1. He didn’t. What he did say is this:
As we celebrate National African American History Month, we recognize the heritage and achievements of African Americans. The contributions African Americans have made and continue to make are an integral part of our society, and the history of African Americans exemplifies the resilience and innovative spirit that continue to make our Nation great.
Okay. A few things. 1) Why does it sound like he wrote this using an old Mad Libs template, like he was told to just put “African American” wherever the blanks were? 2) After reporting that DJT had changed the name of the observance, TMZ made a correction stating that he did not change the name and that “African American” and “Black” have been used interchangeably for decades. For the record, they shouldn’t be because they aren’t the same thing. One is exclusive while the other is inclusive but that’s a rant for another post. 3) Wait. I thought we were trying to make America Great Again? How are our contributions CONTINUING to “make our Nation great” if we’re trying to bring greatness back? That would presume our Nation was already great in SOME way which, in part, was due to us.
Let me be clear (In my best President Obama voice), we have been a part of making America great from the beginning, and when I say “the beginning” I mean since our ancestors were stolen from Africa and brought over to help establish the country that spent centuries denying our very greatness (Mind you, our ancestors were already great all by themselves over there on the continent. They didn’t need any help). So, let’s thank DJT for stating the obvious, even if it was scripted and most people in his administration, and just about everyone who is a part of his base, don’t believe it. Let’s thank him for acknowledging our resilience and innovation and creativity and athleticism and genius and strength, but guess what? We didn’t need to be acknowledged. He didn’t say anything we didn’t already know so it didn’t take him using his Black History Month Media Moment to make the point. Not to us anyway.
That information, my less melinated friends in the arena of education , was for y’all.
And guess what? Black History Month was always supposed to be.
When Carter G. Woodson established Negro History Week in 1926 it wasn’t because Black people needed an opportunity to celebrate our greatness. We didn’t need a designated time to high five or fist bump each other over our accomplishments. What was needed, however, was for our education system to present an American history that didn’t whitewash the narrative, an American history that was an honest representation of how America became great. What was needed was an education system that valued the contributions of it’s Black citizens but, in case you’ve been living in an alternative universe where facts get shoulder shrugs, we still don’t have it.
I know. You’re thinking we have this entire month to celebrate and educate! We have an entire month to have programs and pageants where children can break out the baby powder, afro wigs, costumes and their grandmothers’ good church hats and pretend to be Marcus Garvey, Dr. King, Rosa Parks, Harriett Tubman, Frederick Douglass and Malcolm X. We can have forums and town hall meetings and show Black Movie marathons; we can honor our writers, poets, scientists, mathematicians, politicians, doctors, lawyers, educators, media moguls, musicians, rappers, singers, dancers, humanitarians, athletes, actors, directors, producers, religious figures, and the like. And yes, all of that is great (Nothing like a good Dashiki Day to get into the spirit) but in most schools in America, that’s all it is if it’s even that at all. Dr. Woodson’s vision for an integrated history taught with inclusiveness has been blinded.
According to most US History books, references to contributions by people of African ancestry are limited to: slavery, Frederick Douglass (Did I mention he’s being recognized more and more?), Harriett Tubman, Dred Scott (maybe), The Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Muhammad Ali, but only in the context of him being a draft dodger during the Vietnam War, and possibly Dr. Ronald E. McNair but only in the context of him being a part of the Challenger crew and not because he was a brilliant physicist who earned his doctorate from MIT, a masterful musician who played the saxophone, and a fifth degree black belt in karate. Apparently, in the nearly 400 years we’ve been here, this is all we have to show.
Nah and Nope.
“When I was going to school, I began to be bugged by the teaching of American history because it seemed that that history had been taught without cognizance of my presence.” James Baldwin
It would be easy for me to point all kinds of fingers at all kinds of people about why all students aren’t taught a comprehensive history of this country but I won’t. The truth is students aren’t learning any more about Black History in predominately Black schools than they are in integrated or predominately White ones. The truth is everyone seems to be hiding behind Common Core and “I have to teach the standards” if they have even considered it at all. The TRUTH is Black History IS American History. whether some folks want to see that or not. The TRUTH is we need the Black past, present, and future to be taught EVERY month, EVERY week, EVERY day as a part of EVERY US History curriculum. And THE…TRUTH…IS Black History Month will continue to be necessary until we have a system that tells the complete story of this country with integrity.
Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I would like to make one adjustment: ” A COMPLETE education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Until all groups who are a part of this nation are represented and acknowledged in this American life, the only thing we will be making great again is “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”