Hello readers. You may have noticed that we are in the middle of Black History Month. I was going to post some words on why the existance of (or, more accurately, the need for) Black History Month (and Women’s History Month, etc.) bothers me, but Renee at Womanist Musings has already put it so well:
Black History month gives people an excuse to claim tolerance and understanding without doing any real work to change the ways in which the races interact. For a brief 28 days of 365 that make up a year, people will briefly acknowledge the contributions of blacks and then return to privileging whiteness in every single social institution. Even while we are in the middle of said celebration, whites continue to complain about how racist Black History month is. “Imagine if you had a white month”, is what gets repeated continuously during the month of February. The fact that every month is white history month gets ignored.
The ironic part about the above statement is that black history month is indeed racist but not because there is no equivalent white history month. It is racist because it turns blackness into a mockery. If Black History and accomplishments were truly appreciated we would not need a month to celebrate them; it would be integrated into our lives in the natural course of events. Black history month continues to exist because of racism.
I could not agree more. If we were living in a post-racial (hah!) society, Black History Month would not be necessary. Black history would be taught as part of regular history classes, with the history of all other peoples. Currently, black people’s history is taught in a manner emphasizing their Otherness. It’s also taught in some mind-blowingly stupid, offensive ways.
The story of “Cotton Picking Day” was brought to my attention by Renee, as well. Yes, you read that correctly. Students at Lillie Burney Elementary in Mississippi were invited to come to school “dressed as slaves,” but the day’s theme was nixed after some parents complained to administrators.
It’s bad enough that kids are asked to dress as pilgrims and Indians to celebrate
the mass slaughter of native peoples Thanksgiving. This dressing-up-as-slaves business makes a mockery of slavery and insults the memory of slaves and their living decentants. Homeschooling looks better and better for me and my hypothetical future children, because if they’re educated in our system I’ll have a lot of re-teaching to do anyway.
This clip from The Soup perfectly demonstrates the mixed messages we send about minorities in this country.
For our readers who can’t watch or hear the video, Joel McHale juxtaposes a Vh1 commercial featuring a wide array of black faces, in celebration of black history, with a collection of clips from Vh1 programing, which depicts black men and women in a rather… negative light.
Black History Month is lip service.