African American history is an important and crucial piece of the puzzle that is our nation’s heritage.
The United States is a nation that is made up of all kinds of ethnicities, and it is important to recognize people for their historical contributions.
That being said, is Black History Month a necessity or a source of division?
After discussing this topic with my editor, we decided to do a tandem column that tackles the issue Black History Month and its role in our society. Comments from our Editor, Lonnie Adamson, will be marked “LA” and my comments will be marked “BC.”
Does constant discussion of race or ethnicity in our society fuel differences and hatred?
BC: I’ve always wondered if we, as a nation, ceased to discuss racial matters and racist issues, would they just die? There is no room for racism in the society we live in today. We are too diverse, educated and dependent on one another to worry about the color of someone else’s skin. It’s silly to think in 2013 we’re still hearing about prejudicial acts in the news or around town. Dr. King fought and ultimately won the battle for civil rights, and dragging the issue on and on further sets us back as a nation. I wonder what it would be like to live in a nation where nobody cared about or discussed issues that are solely based on the color of a person’s skin.
LA:Racial hatred exists and probably always will in some places. Discussion is the way around hatred. Dr. King did fight a valiant battle for civil rights for all people. It is going too far to say that the battle was won. It may never be fully won because the nature of people is to mistrust those who are different from themselves because they have a different skin color, speak a different language or wear a turban. Those differences don’t make them bad or dangerous in themselves. It is silly that in 2013 that we could hear about prejudicial acts, but we do. The place we need to get to is — as Dr. King suggested in the “I Have a Dream” speech — where we don’t judge people by the color of their skin but the content of their character. People of all races do stupid, hateful things. If we need to judge at all, we need to know about the person before we judge them on things we know or have been told about people who look like them. The discussion is the way around the hatred. Continuing prejudicial acts indicate the discussion should continue.
Does Black History Month cause division?
BC: Martin Luther King Jr.’s message was unity and equality, but does a month that focuses on the history of one race cause division? That’s a tough question. I do think it needs an answer, however, and I am under the impression that it does cause division. Folks like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Booker T. Washington play a vital role in American history, but that is exactly what it should be, American history. There’s no need to divide our history even further by saying, “We’ll talk about African American contributions, but ONLY in February.” That’s not fair to African Americans and it’s not fair to people of other ethnicities.
LA: So the question becomes, “Does our periodic return to noting our difference by race only remind us of and highlight the differences when we should be trying to be one identify?” We are highlighting differences and following that up with an acknowledgment that the differences either don’t matter or help us in their diversity. That is a good approach to remembering omissions and bad actions of the past and then focusing on the positive. Yes telling the stories of people like Rosa Parks, Dr. King and Booker T. Washington should be told daily without particular reference to race and not only in February. We are doing that with much greater frequency than we ever did before Dr. King. But the fact remains that race continues playing a part of oppression in this country. An African American person’s ability to rise in wealth or education or ability continues linked to oppression of the past. A story of success seems to remain related to that oppression.
Are we not past the issue of racism in 2013?
BC: I’m not ignorant enough to claim that racism does not exist because, sadly enough, I do know people that will judge and hate based on race. Collectively, however, I think we might be past the issue as a nation. Americans elected Barack Obama as the first “black” President in our nation’s history. African Americans are successful in business, politics and every other aspect of life in this country. Why can’t we just let one another live without focusing on something that does not matter (the color of a person’s skin).
LA: Our discussion of racism has many generational aspects. When I was 25 years old, I could not envision a time when our nation would allow a Black man to be president. Now an African-American man has been inaugurated twice. We may not trust him completely as captain of our economic course but enough Americans trust him enough to be a player, to bring his ideas to the table. That is miles and years of distance compared to 1964.
How important is Black History Month?
BC: African American history is VERY important; it just does not belong in the divisive setting that is one month out of the year. We are ONE nation under God, and we should have one history. An American history, history that points out some of our biggest mistakes as a nation and a history that amplifies our successes. I am so happy to celebrate African Americans and their contributions to society, I just think it shouldn’t be limited to February? Ask yourself this, can my ethnic background’s history be told in one month?
LA:No argument there.