January 30, 2012

Don't Blink!

February's here. It's the shortest month of the year and it's designated to recognize all of black people's contributions to America.

Shortest month of the year. All of black people's contributions. Ummmm...How do the historical contributions of an entire people get crammed into 28 days? (or 29 days, since this is a Leap Year)

Is it obsolete? Granted, Black History Month came about because of Carter Woodson's desire to see recognition of what black people had done to build the country and build pride in a discriminated people group. But that was way back before voting rights, desegregation and all of the other civil rights stuff.  It made sense. For that time. Given the fact that so many boundaries have been crossed, is a singular month still needed to highlight one group?

And what about the other people groups that have a made an historical impact on America?

I don't know...maybe we still need it.  At the risk of outing my ignorance about current school curricula, I don't think history textbooks are all that different from when I was a kid.  The black history we learned was pretty much relegated to a page margin where there'd be a "Did You Know" followed by a snippet about Benjamin Banneker or maybe even Daniel Hale Williams; and of course, there were two or three pages dedicated to MLK.

Had it not been for my dad taking me to a black historical museum, that's probably where black history would've ended for me.  That field trip wasn't even intentional; it's not like my parents were Angela Davis and Huey Newton or anything. In fact, I think it only happened because my mom had enough of my endless chatter one day and told my dad to take that kid someplace.  He in turn, remembered that his friend Robert had opened up this place and turned my mother's moment of sanity into an impromptu education for me.

But it was all natural.  And I guess that's what I'm getting at.  Going to that museum with my dad felt normal. Natural. What I learned in school felt natural. It didn't seem like anything was missing; but at the same time, I could never quite put together the fact that there was one history at that museum, but another one in my textbooks.

Listen, I love history. I love thinking about people way back when and what made them tick; the music they listened to; how they eked out a living without IPads, computers or ready-made butter.  I especially love American history because so many ethnicities and races, all with their own stories, have built it.  And no one should be left out of it.

So as we approach Black History Month, I've got to wonder: do we really need one month to spotlight one people? Or do we just need to revise the history curriculum so it's always naturally encompassing every people group who have made this county what it is?

My guess is that we need to revise the curricula.  But until that happens, February's here. Don't blink, or you'll miss it.


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