This isn’t the first year I’ve heard people scoff at Black History Month. Every February — the shortest month of the year, I might add — I have to defend not only why Black History Month is significant, but also why Black History Month isn’t just for black people. It’s for everyone.
Whether you’re a recent transplant to the U.S, a black American or any other race, Black History Month will help you embrace American culture throughout the years. Black History Month isn’t just about the stains on American History like slavery and Jim Crow laws. It’s about the struggle, sure, but let’s not forget about the abundance of contributions black Americans have made to American society. From music, to medical inventions, to literature, black Americans have shaped and molded modern day American culture today.
So the next time anyone doubts its importance beyond black culture, remind them why Black History Month isn’t just for black people.
It Helps Ensure We Don't Make The Same Mistakes
Perhaps the most important reason to embrace Black History Month is to not repeat our past mistakes. In the 19th century, white supremacists spread propaganda that blacks were inferior and dangerous to keep us enslaved. Today, white nationalists within our government are using the same fear tactics to slander Islam as a dangerous religion, driving their agenda to ban Muslims from entry into our country.
The tactics used in American history by black people to resist are being used across our country now, as we continue to fight for our human rights. Black History Month allows us to take time to remember a struggle that remains relevant for any demographic in need of a voice.
Black History Will Always Be American History
Contrary to popular belief, African-American history did not start with slavery, as books like They Came Before Columbus explain. Columbus himself noted in a letter that Native Americans confirmed "black skinned people had come from the south-east in boats, trading in gold-tipped spears." Our story starts centuries before white settlers came to the New World, and our contributions to modern society have shaped and molded American history for almost 800 years. To ignore Black History Month, black American contributions, as well as Native American contributions, is to ignore a crucial part of American history.
We Can Learn From Civil Rights Leaders & Activists
Whether you believe in the non-violent tactics of Martin Luther King, or agree with Malcolm X and Black Panther leaders like Kathleen Cleaver, who strongly believed that black Americans needed to protect ourselves against violence from nationalists and police brutality by any means necessary, you need to know your black activist history in order to understand political resistance. While both civil disobedience and "by any means necessary" use vastly different tactics, they serve to reach the same goal of civil and equal rights. Studying black American civil rights history gives people of all races essential tactics that can be used to fight against a totalitarian administration.
It Promotes Diversity For All
Black History Month was originally celebrated as Negro History Week and introduced by Carter Woodson in 1926. The now month-long celebration known as Black History Month celebrates the many ethnicities and cultures that make up black people and those of African descent in America. This includes Afro-Latino music, Caribbean culture, and the many countries that black Americans call home. Black History Month goes beyond black American history and embraces the multitude of cultures within the black community that everyone takes part in, from cuisine to music to fashion.
It Reminds Everyone To Celebrate Our Contributions To Modern Society
Embracing the differences between people of color and white Americans creates tolerance and understanding. Embracing the vastly different texture of our hair and the many shades of brown of our skin is not to exclude those without African descent. This cultural celebration is for everyone to take notice, embrace, and love.
Of course, celebrating black culture isn't just about our hair texture or skin tone. It includes recognizing that our musical contributions to blues, jazz, hip-hop, and R&B have been monumental. Black American influence doesn't end there; medical inventions like the blood bank and pacemaker can all be attributed to the hands of black people. And if you hadn't noticed, people of African descent have dominated sports for the last century.
Black Americans Are Still Making History
As we embrace our modern contributions this Black History Month, it's important to acknowledge that black people still continue to make history. Barack Obama, our first black president, made history for every American, whether they liked it or not over the last eight years. Celebrities and public figures like Elaine Welteroth, Simone Manual, Ava Duvernay, and Delrish Moss all made history in 2016, inspiring black people and Americans everywhere.
Today, more than ever, we need to remember the people who continue to look bigotry and racism dead in the face, without allowing ignorance to prevent them from flourishing. All too often, our differences are looked at as flaws — and celebrating Black History Month is a way for all of us to help fight that mentality.