Now that Black History Month has come to a close, perhaps it is time to reassess its origin and significance in today’s society.
In 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson created Negro History Week, which later became Black History Week in 1972. By 1976, the whole month of February was dedicated to assure Americans, both white and black, that African-Americans had a substantial role in history, and thus deserved the freedoms of their emancipation. The second man to receive a PhD from Harvard (W.E.B. DuBois was the first), Woodson was dedicated to encouraging the success of the black race for years to come.
In the days of Dr. Woodson, blacks suffered what Martin Luther King, Jr., once called “the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.” Jim Crowe was a way of life, where signs that read “white only” were a common part of the scenery.
Woodson realized that blacks needed a confidence boost; he needed some way to push them into acting upon the freedoms they had worked so hard for. Negro History week was the perfect solution to gaining the pride blacks needed to pull forward, and without it, the Civil Rights movement would not have moved with the same efficacy as it did.
My main issue with Black History month as it is “celebrated” today is that it does not seem relevant to our culture anymore. Instead, Martin Luther King’s dream that “one day little black boys and little black girls” would be “holding hands with little white boys and girls,” has come true. Not only are whites and blacks holding hands, but they are working side by side; they are getting married and having children.
According to NAACP records, Dr. Woodson often said himself that he “hoped the time would come when Negro History week would be unnecessary; when all Americans would willingly recognize the contributions of Black Americans as a legitimate and integral part of the history of this country.
In my opinion, that time has come; America has seen progress. “Progress” was printed upon the face of our current biracial president when he ran for office. In 2008, America chanted “yes we can!” and later, “yes we did.”
Each black history month, racial tensions seem to rise as many blacks look upon the victimization of their race. A “woe is me! I am a poor, oppressed black person” stigma has awkwardly cascaded over the nation because a spectrum of the black race is abusing the intentions of Dr. Woodson.
Woodson wanted blacks to be recognized within history, not set aside into a politically correct act of guilt by the rest of the American population. Whites should not carry the burden of their ancestors’ cultural mistakes for the rest of history, and blacks of younger generations do not have the right to act angrily toward whites of younger generations.
Whites are no longer the oppressor. Blacks are oppressing themselves by using black history month as a crutch to make excuses for self-imposed segregation, economic failure, the achievement gap, and other issues that “plague” African Americans.
There is no longer an excuse for failure. The time has come for “black America” to join the rest of the United States and start being self-sufficient. Everyone has been discriminated against. Does that mean that everyone should have their own month? If that is the case, we should dedicate a month to celebrate the success of Hispanics, Asian-Americans, Jews, and gays all across America—surely, they have all been oppressed.
Now, I am not saying that black history is unimportant. If there is any inspiration for the struggling population of black culture, it is the success of those who share their heritage. Struggling blacks should learn early on in their education that the small pox vaccine was created by a black woman, and that both blues and jazz music were created from the genius of black people.
In saying that we should end black history month, we should do it gradually. By putting an end to black history month immediately, America might risk neglecting it all together.
In Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, he stated that “we cannot walk alone; and as we walk, we must pledge that we shall always march ahead, and we cannot turn back.”
Americans of color need to keep marching. We cannot continue to focus on the past by arming ourselves with the pain of our ancestors. By keeping ourselves segregated within one month to celebrate our history, and by having programs like CNN’s What it Means to Be Black in America Today, we are not marching ahead, but turning back on the dreams of our people.