Black History Month is the shortest month of the year. During this month, grade schools all accross America teach about Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Harriet Tubman. Schools usually base their curriculum on the same historic episodes: Rosa Parks’ refusal to move seats on a bus, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream,” speech and Harriet Tubman’s work with the Underground Railroad.
While social studies is a main subject during the entire school year, there aren’t any mentions of African-American contributors, except for this one month. Social studies textbooks do not tell you about all the great things blacks did throughout history and without the work of African ancestors, America would not be what we know today.
In an interview with CNN, Michael Eric Dyson, a professor at Georgetown University said, “If we’re talking about American history and being – shying away from the history of oppression, we’re not talking about American history.”
“What’s interesting is that ethnic studies are rife in American history. But the ethnicities happen to be Polish, Irish and Italian,” Dyson added. “They happen to be white, European, western and Eastern European identities that are the basis of ethnic identity and what constitutes American history.”
Some may argue that it is unfair to teach a course to a targeted demographic, and I agree. I feel that would be unethical and an act of repeating our past. Students should not be segregated according to race and taught about their race, however, what I am saying is that African American history is American history.
Many African Americans don’t know their relevance here in America.
Tyrone Williams, an English professor at Xavier University and author of “The Problem with Black History Month,” commented on the general lack of history in our education system and said, “I don’t think we are getting enough education at [the elementary and high school level]. I mentioned Carter G. Woodson to my university students and they had never heard of him.”
That is a problem. Many people may also argue that education starts at home, but what if it doesn’t? When a child doesn’t learn about their roots at home, does that deny that child to learn them at all?
I believe that this situation coincides with the outstanding percentages of African-American incarcerations. If a child goes to school every day and is never taught about anyone they can positively identify with, then that child may began to feel that they have no place in this country.
Huey P. Newton said in his autobiography, “Like adolescents everywhere, he wants an image to model himself after, and he becomes confused because there is such disparity between what he is taught and what he sees.”
As a result, that child may begin to shy away from school and enter a life that self destructs, especially those children of impoverished areas. According to a November 2002 national report by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, only 55 percent of African-Americans graduated high school and although African-Americans only make up 12 percent of the U.S. population, 37 percent of prisoners in the U.S. are African-American.
At 23 years old and a senior, I have to admit I learned the most I have ever learned about African American history in college classes than I ever did in all of my entire years of high school. The only reason why I have learned so much about African-American history is because I chose to take specific courses like the black family, the black church and the black woman, which focused solely on African-Americans. I found it odd and upsetting that I took a woman studies class and learned about all white women.
The problem with black history month is black history month. The fact that February is the shortest month of the year only adds fuel to my already lit fire. There shouldn’t be one month that students learn about a certain race of people. When students learn about their country they should be learning about the country in its entirety. Black history is American history.
Keona Gabbadon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.