Black History Month: Is it Still Necessary?

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February means Black History Month. This is where we see various forms of media pay homage to historical African American figures, school children learn about The Underground Railroad and the Civil Rights Movement, and a series of panel discussions, documentaries, and the like analyze Black history through a modern lens. Museums and cultural centers display stunning works of Black arts, and for 28 days, Black American culture is proudly highlighted to a mainstream audience.

Black History Month is extremely important in domestic politics and society. For this month, we especially remember the trials and tribulations of our fallen ancestors, many of whom perished under draconian segregation practices and grotesque violence. Black History Month serves as a reminder for how far we’ve come in the fight for social equity.

However, some question it’s utility, whites and Blacks alike. For a segment of white America, Black History Month is counterproductive. They argue that if we wish to advance a racially equal society, we must move on from the past. They wish to silence the undeniable truth of this American nation; that for centuries America prospered off the backs of a marginalized community. These are the same folks who demonize President Barack Obama for daring to weigh in on the Trayvon Martin tragedy. These are the same folks who erroneously proclaim that racism no longer exists, and those who dare to talk about it are “racebaiters” or sufferers of white guilt. These folks are usually the most racist themselves, and sadly, they fail to realize it.

These are the folks that scare me. They scare me because they are unapologetically vocal. And, to the unsuspecting and unknowledgeable audience to which they pander, their words are cogent. What’s even more troubling is that these commentators are getting paid to advance a prejudice agenda. They make millions and millions of dollars to feed off of hidden racial tensions. Racism turns a hefty profit.

For some Black Americans, Black History Month is an intangible, ceremonial statement. A mere compromise meant to keep us content. A crumb on the table. Some of us argue that Black History Month lacks any deep or insightful relevance to the 21st century, and cite lapses in education as a prime example. Children are taught a romanticized version of the Black struggle; they are only given cursory glimpses into the remarkably complex and multifaceted truths about slavery and civil rights. Iconic figures like Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks decorate classroom walls during February, but throughout the rest of the year, their pictures are invisible.

The rise of current Black mainstreaming; i.e. hip hop, makes the problem even more confusing. Hip hop artists regularly berate each other, promote violence against their own, laud trapping and drug dealing as respectable hustles, and terrorize and objectify their women. Although I am an avid hip hop fan, I cannot deny that hip hop, at times, is uncomfortable. Hip hop artists rarely speak out against this characterization of hip hop, and when they do, their words are often conflicting. They usually state that hip hop is entertainment, and should not be taken too seriously. They also challenge parents to get more involved into what their children are listening to, and how their children are behaving.

Contemporary Black figures suggest that racism is an issue that should continue to be addressed because racism takes a different form to better fit into the 21st century. Racism is structural and institutionalized, hidden behind and in between bureaucracies and regulations. They argue that Black History Month should focus on this new reality of racism, although recognizing historical figures are important.

Clearly, Black History Month, through and through is a respectable recognition of how Blacks overcame severe racism throughout history. However, in 2014, as ideas are spreading rapidly through social media, it’s difficult to completely place Black History Month as an end-all-do-all for Black progress. And that’s why I launched the #BlackFutures campaign, as a way to better understand varying perspectives of Black History and what it means for this technologically advanced society in which we live.

Fluctuating demographics and the merging of cross-racial and cross-cultural groups in workplaces and college campuses reinvigorate perceptions of various groups. New ideologies are on the rise, and we’re using new terms to understand racial phenomenon. Words like colorism, (which investigates discrimination based on the lightness or darkness of one’s skin) is finding their way into racial dialogues. And it’s time we give these words voice within the Black History Month context.

Black History Month remains a significant inclusion in the domestic structure, but it must be renovated if we wish to continue towards a more equitable society.

Great Gifts: The Pstore's Iconic Black Women Poster Prints

Great Gifts: The Pstore’s Iconic Black Women Poster Prints


21 responses to “Black History Month: Is it Still Necessary?

  1. LOL, I was wondering who that slave looking woman was and why she was on the google homepage….I forgot all about black history month…..My thing is if all people talk about is slavery, the eyes on the prize/civil rights, and how far we’ve came…then they can keep this f*ckin month. I agree on the revamp….as far as hip hop, the mainstream industry needs to change….for one it’s too much based on appearance and image, you have to look, talk, and act a certain way just to get on the radio/TV…the music is secondary…EX. the rapper Tyga, he got no airplay when he was himself but, add the rap cliches and he sells the units, label gives him the push….But that’s not just hip hop, that’s the entire music industry since the 80’s….Once hip hop started making millions the labels noticed and here we are today.

    old tyga

    new tyga


  2. I find your voice is one of the most relevant ones I’ve encountered since reading wordpress blogs. I’ve had questions like, why teach black history for just one month and why is it the shortest month of the year? (dissatisfied with the “crumb” you alluded to) And It turned out that just being black is political. So in public schools, where religion and politics are supposed to be avoided, we can’t really teach history. We can ultimately only teach timelines, most of which favor the white “conquerer”. So while this unequal representation definitely robs black people of their individual histories, it also robs everyone else, because we end up ignorant of who we are as a whole. I am a proponent for teaching better history. Your writing is helping do that.
    I love the response you got from “Mr. Perfect” too. His video selections were a stark contrast from one another. The industry saw the talent, capitalized on the talent, and stole it. I don’t want to say that made (forced?) Tyga to be a sell-out, but it did. If that’s the only way to be an artist, then the industry needs a revamp.


      • In history imperialism/white supremacy is celebrated, colonialism is looked at as a natural thing, the rape of people, culture, and land is just part of being a great leader/ founding father/ or conqueror in history class…..In fact the only white guy seen as evil in history class is Hitler….what they don’t teach you about WWII is over 60 million people died but they only focus on the one evil man who killed 6 million people (actually it was 2 million). And if it’s about good and evil, how come the U.S president Harry Truman isn’t talked about that way after dropping two atomic bombs on Japan killing all life in it’s vicinity simply to show Russia and the rest of the world the power of ruthlessness of the United States…since well Japan was trying to give up…..We do learn timelines, from a American Superiority/ white supremacist/ imperialistic angle.


      • Sadly and to cue up on Mr. Perfect’s point about us not talking about the effects of bombing Japan, not only did we kill a lot of innocent Japanese but we proceeded afterwards to “help” “rebuild” Japan well into the 1950’s and in so doing literally wrote their school history books about WWII (that they still teach from today in many instances.) Is it needless to say, that it is BIASED and in favor of “Us not Them”? I did not learn of the California and Oregon (concentration) camps we placed ALL Asians in during our Japanese paranoia until after I graduated from my west coast high school, and went to college in New York. That’s a true disconnect. I felt robbed of my right to know. And that kind of ignorance leads to racism by default. So good point Mr. Perfect and thanks again for your forum Black Millennial Muse.


      • I have to clarify that we called those camps, “relocation” camps and not concentration camps, by the way. I call them “concentration” camps sometimes because I feel they ultimately come down to the same thing. Tyranny. However, I don’t want to be sloppy about the facts in order to make my point of view “juicer”.


  3. I have the debate in my head. Is embracing black history month us allowing “the man” the man to dictate when we are allowed to celebrate our heritage. Thinking back on what my public school education has taught me (or didn’t teach me) this month is the sole month the curriculum focused on prominent parts of “black” history even though it was a very important part of American history. Outside of this month we would gloss over very important events relevant to American history and injustices and attempted genocides to black people while focusing in on others.
    So I have come to the conclusion without black history month a lot of these important events would go unheard of by the masses. Buried in texts to go untold unless you look for your self all in the name of assimilation….


  4. I’m not usually one to appeal to ethos but MF makes a great point very concisely here:

    It’s also rather pertinent to your white privilege article for that matter. The whole combative third paragraph listing off members of this terrible group whose intentions and goals you understand and are able to put all in the same boat. You list members of at least 3 different groups, though maybe there’s some membership overlap. Many other arguments from people who aren’t “those folks” to you are ignored. Furthermore, where’s the benefit of pretending that there was one (1) group of people that was marginalized and exhorted for labor to create this country that we are all reeeeeeeeally lucky to live in? Honestly there’s more potential harm in someone like your previous commentor who seems to have good reason to believe that only the “only evil white man in history” only killed 2 million jews?

    Before even talking about the purpose of a dedicated month to the history of one marginalized group, where is the discussion of a final goal – a society that you can fight with the people who share this space (be it a city block, a borough, city, or planet) and not against them to create? Education seems like a great place to continue (since it has helped with so much progress over a relatively short period of time already) and with BHM being such an institution within schools…. honestly it’s hard to see what you’re trying to get out of the month. The loud minorities can be scary but the educated majority still has real impact -even when not pandering to public forums where viewership equates to success….


    • I watched your Morgan Freeman video. First, easy for him to say at this stage in his life learning. He is a very successful man. He doesn’t want me to call him black. Okay. I won’t. But when someone does. Okay. I will. The point is, each generation has to process history for themselves. The way you do that is like a grieving process. There are stages. Disillusionment is hard. Anger leads to action. Sometimes it has to get loud. It’s a barometer. It indicates an imbalance that needs to be addressed. I don’t feel placed in the same boat as all white people by this blog post. And I am not pandering. And no one is having this debate for a freshly pressed popularity contest. Jewish people are fully represented in history because they are in control of their history and have an enormous media and political presence. They are also extremely good storytellers. They have preserved their historical narratives exceedingly well, so that “we never forget”. Maybe Morgan Freeman wants Mike Wallace to stop talking about the holoucast too? Okay, so he can stop talking and go make another batman movie. No one said there is only one evil white man. What has been indicated is he’s the one we focus on most. I don’t think anyone is ignoring the obliteration of Native Americans, or how they helped build our skyscrapers and bridges, or how the the Chinese built railroads etc. in any of the statements either. I think the point is, that none of it should be neglected. There is also a voice asking for contemporary world problems to enter into the history discussion. That includes things like industry and hip hop. If you look at the history of music, it will coincide with layers of truth that show another relationship between black people and jewish people. I am not talking about this to create factions. I am suggesting an honest bridge. But first we all need to listen to the problems. To what hurts. We don’t have to take that personal. We just need to listen.


      • The morgan freeman video is gone as is the comment that I spoke to… so my long reply now makes no sense out of context. I find this happens a lot in the blogging realms. I don’t know if it’s editing, moderation, or computer glitch, but the dialogue out of context or altered makes the dialogue worthless. The original article is still very worth the read, but as a commentator or contributor I’m feeling misrepresented.


      • Now I’m seeing the link to Morgan … and that the comment has only changed in appearance… (SO sorry for this now cluttering response…) However I really am still seeing tons of blogging edits and or removal on other sites which makes the technology communication very difficult… perhaps this belongs in your newer discussion of media and technology…


  5. Veryyy insightful blog! Well I don’t agree with the idea that just one month is chosen out of the year to highlight the achievements and sacrifices of black leaders. I’m African and I don’t know much at all about what goes on in the US but the post colonial effects are real. Africa is still ravaged by it unfortunately and maybe black history should be made part of the school curriculum and shouldn’t be singled out just one month of the year.. What do you guys think?


    • Malcolm X, before you was taken from us, was about to start bridging gaps between Black Americans and Africans. He too believed that our stories are under the same threat of white supremacy, and he’s absolutely right. Black populations from around the world have suffered under global racism. These effects are widespread, and 1 month out of the year just doesn’t do it all justice.


  6. This is an amazing post, and is extremely significant to black culture. Black history month focuses on traditional racism, which are still present, but uncommon. We need to look at the people who base opinions on stereotypes, but then back it up with “but I have black friends.” Having black friends does not make racial slurs okay and we definitely shouldn’t tolerate ignorance, but educate those who don’t understand. Black history month mainly looks black people from slavery and so on. Our history did NOT start at slavery and the education system should be teaching African history alongside the events following slavery. Great post.


  7. Awesomely inspiring post! Black History Month has been somewhat of an enigma for me since elementary school. I never understood the isolation of one’s culture’s history to only be thoroughly discussed in the span of 28 days. It baffles me because black history is a part of America’s history. You can’t discuss one without the other and one month is not sufficient. IMO, this should be integrated in the yearly curriculum.


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