For many people, Black History Month is a time for celebration and reflection. For many other people – like myself – it is a reminder that the segregation and division of races is still in place today.
Black History Month orginated as “Negro History Week” in 1926, a time when it was arguably absolutly necessary to define and recognize the accomplishment of African-Americans when others that did their most to supress them. While the recognition of “black” history is still absolutely vital to the validity of American history, we have come so far since then. No one should ever say that “racism is dead,” but if we are ever to move beyond it, we must first start by recognizing that we no longer need to define our history by our race.
Is “black” history not American history? By segregating our history by race, we continue to perpetuate racial division. The argument that we need Black History Month because “white history month is every month” is lazy and tired. No one refers to history as “white history;” it is simply history. Black history is not only American history, but human history, and deserves to be treated as such – not separated from the rest and given only 28 days of recognition. In what way is it not racist to only reward people based on race for one month, ignoring their merits for the rest of the year?
One of the ways chosen to celebrate Black History Month here on campus has been to dedicate a wall in Trexler to the fact that “Black Girls Rock.” In fact, every single woman dipicted on that wall does indeed rock, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the color of their skin, but rather for their merits as people. By only recognizing and promoting people of color you divide the many different races present here on campus. Throughout the year, no one sees a wall dedicated to the fact that “white girls rock” or “asian girls rock” or even “Hispanic girls rock”. Why? Because any one of those would be seen as racist and inappropriate. Saying that “we rock because of the color of our skin” reduces everything a person is and has accomplished to something as trivial as skin color. It is for this reason that I find the “Black Girls Rock” campaign not only offensive, but racist as well. I am in no way trying to attack or devalue the women on the Black Girls Rock: Queens Edition wall; I simply believe that their merits as people are independent of their skin color. Black women are wonderful. They are intellegent and beautiful. But so are the women of every other race on this campus. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. suggested, let us judge people by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.
This may make many people angry, but I view black men and women as human beings – no less or no more important that anyone else. I firmly believe in the unity of all races, which is why I think “black history” should be integrated into all of American history, not just segregated into one month.
In no way is this meant to diminish the accomplishments and greatness of those people celebrated during Black History Month, but rather to promote the ideals of unity within all racial groups. So rather than celebrate one month of “black” history, let us push to integrate our history into all of American history. Let us celebrate Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Malcolm X and so many others, as wonderful human beings all year long instead of just celebrating them as noteworthy “black” individuals during the month of February.