I am enraged that the Banner’s Feb. 12, 2009, issue posed the question, “Is it time to end Black History Month?” Feminists would never consider ending March as Women’s History Month to appease males of all races, nationalities and ethnic groups.
Our history is not restricted to the U.S. and did not begin in 1619. It is obscene and inaccurate to say so. I invite people to talk to reference librarians in public libraries, and to study the books of black historians like Chancellor Williams, John Henrik Clarke, William Leo Hansberry, W.E.B. Du Bois, Lerone Bennett Jr., Carter G. Woodson and Arthur Schomburg (a black Puerto Rican with a German father).
Yet the perspective of most people quoted in the article is that we have to make the study of black history acceptable to, and somehow more inclusive of, white Americans, and that our history is somehow not as legitimate without that.
So what message does this article give children, teens and adults who already limit their black heroes or heroines to a tiny handful of abolitionists, civil rights-era activists and present-day celebrities?
That our history is connected only to white America? That we ought to discount proof that the African Diaspora came from a proud, ancient heritage, and that we are connected to struggles, victories, role models and cultures worldwide?
That it’s valid for every other race, nationality, religious or ethnic group to study and commemorate its history and values, but not for displaced Africans living in America? That black teenagers and adults need outside approval before they can investigate or analyze their culture and history?
Carried to its logical conclusion, this perspective suggests it’s OK for white people and others here to look at most of us as a pathetic people, and for blacks living elsewhere to dismiss us as merely Americans.
More information is available — much of it free online and in libraries — for anyone who wants to access it. People of African descent need to know and analyze it as a source of continual inspiration.
Please don’t use President Obama as an excuse to “end” Black History Month. He knows that 55 years ago in D.C., his father wouldn’t have been able to buy a meal.
If you elect to “drop” Black History Month or submerge it into general U.S. history, you’ll end up 20 years from now with outsiders defining who should or shouldn’t be considered black role models, how much information you’re given about them, and how connected you can be to the lessons of other blacks in the Diaspora. You also won’t much closer to mental or economic liberation than you are right now.