We Need to Reform Black History Month

As Americans, we live in a culture that is incredibly inclusive, incredibly diverse and tolerant of diversity, and highly focused on open discourse. And that’s great. However, the focus on categorizing people based on their skin color has really divided this nation. The deep-rooted obsession with race has turned something that should be positive and uplifting for everyone into something that essentially tells people that their race is their identity and the basis for how they should relate to the world. This obsession has been implanted into the minds of Americans for many years from very early ages via the public school system and pop culture. While it is extremely important for all people to have pride in their race and to celebrate the achievements of people of all races, black history month seems to be going in a direction that, unfortunately, is not allowing light to shine on the pressing issues that so many black Americans are dealing with and have been dealing with for a long time.

It seems that, if we’re going to dedicate an entire month to celebrating black Americans, we might as well use it at least in part to combat things that blacks have struggled with for decades and still struggle with, such as single motherhood and unmarried birth in the black community, violent crime in the black community, fatherless children in the black community, drug abuse that’s wiping out swaths of black Americans, high rates of poverty and government assistance in the black community, high rates of illiteracy among black children, etc. Americans deserve to be liberated from third-world problems such as these, and I just don’t see this conversation being had during black history month or any month for that matter.

Fortunately for the black Americans struggling with these issues, it looks like America is going to be blessed with another four years with the Trump administration. But you have to work for the economy in order for the economy to work for you, and creating jobs (while obviously an important feat) only helps people who want to work. Having the conversation about encouraging more black Americans to work and lift themselves off government assistance, while it’s a touchy subject, is vital for the future of black children. But it isn’t happening, at least not in the same space that people are celebrating. Not to mention so many in the black American community (and Americans at large) continue to vote for the policies that historically have put and kept them in peril, which is not shocking when we consider the broken school system that refuses to teach history accurately.

The conversation around black history needs to shift. The warm and fuzzy parts of black history absolutely surround us during this month, there’s no ignoring it, but what about making change? Why does no one seem to care about our fellow Americans who desperately want out of the tormenting cycle their families and communities have been stuck in for decades? It is unfair to black Americans and to all Americans to simply be propping black people up and saying “good job!” for their accomplishments without also addressing the harsh reality. It goes without saying that Americans should always remember the Republican party’s historic emancipation of American slaves and the unanimous ruling against segregation. We all know and believe that racist policy and ideology is a bleak stain on this country. But pretending that things are hunky-dory now and turning a blind eye to the struggles of our fellow Americans is no way to celebrate American history.

I work with children, many of whom are black. These children have so much to offer this world, but keeping them in the dark and staying silent about the threats at their doorstep is unacceptable. Celebration is something humans have done for all of history, and it’s very important. But so is addressing the hard truth, and the hard truth is that black Americans have suffered these hardships long enough. If “black lives matter” then we need to start acting that way. Will we continue ignoring this glaring aspect of black history, or will we step up and create real change that’s deeper than the lip service we’re dishing out now?

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