I’ve heard the reasons why it’s not fair that African-Americans get their own month. Everything from the claim that the practice is exclusionary and promotes separatist thinking to questioning why this group of people thinks they’re so special.
I don’t care about any of it.
I like Black History Month for one reason, and that is all I need: during this month, every single day of this month — the shortest month in the calendar year, I might add — we can openly celebrate the positive contributions that African-Americans have made to this country. Every day of this month we can be proud that someone black, at some point in time, did something to help someone that is worth remembering.
Too often the media portrays African-Americans in what I like to call the six buckets: criminal; athlete; whore — with its subset baby-mama; angry black female/male; seducer — which perpetuates the myth that black men and women are great lovers, but aren’t good for much else; and the entertainer.
But during February we are reminded that on the 11th in 1990 South African president and political activist Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years. On the 12th in 1909 The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP, the oldest and largest civil rights organization in the United States, was founded. On the 13th in 1970 Joseph L. Searles became the first black member of the New York Stock Exchange.
I’m certainly not saying black people are the only race who should be celebrated for their contributions to this country. We are not the only race or group that has suffered horrible indignities and hardships at others’ hands. And we are certainly not the only group the world should acknowledge in a diversity and inclusion context.
But we are a group with a lot to offer, a group with talents that span all industries, and a group that for whatever reason doesn’t seem to know or act upon its gifts to the best of its ability. I can’t think of a better reason for a daily reminder of what has been, so that we might better focus on what could be. Promoting positive reminders of those who came before is necessary to remind those who are here now why we do what we do, and why we should always adhere to a higher standard.
Then one day long after I’m gone, we can celebrate the day we no longer needed Black History Month. Because on that day, every single day, the world will look at us without scorn, without suspicion and with an eye for contribution, not color.
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