"It's not fair that African Americans get to have an African American History Month and the White people don't"! And, "it's not fair that there are Black colleges for the African Americans." These were the comments made to my 15 year old granddaughter (I'll call her, "Miss E.") by a White classmate. She shared her classmate's comments at our family Thanksgiving dinner last week. I told her to ignore those statements, but later I thought about it and realized that it needed to be dealt with. At least my granddaughter needs to be prepared for the price of being Black, Brilliant and Beautiful, and she is all three.
Well Miss E., we have an African American Heritage Month because Blacks have contributed so much to the American story of progress for which we have never been paid nor have we gotten credit for. African American Heritage Month was created to fill in the gap left by American History which is taught in America. It was created by a Black professor named Carter G. Woodson and originated as Black History Week. Born in 1926, as a project of the Association for the Study of Negro Life, it was later expanded to Black History Month in the 1960's and the Month of February was selected. (Notice that this is the shortest month in the year.)
Miss E., tell your classmate that you are not the scholar on Black history. Let her know that your career intentions are in the medical field. Ask your classmate why is she asking you these questions? Tell her that there is no meeting where all Black folks in America get together to discuss Black issues or even Black history so that all Black persons know everything about all Black persons in America. You are not a spokesperson for the Black race, just like she isn't expected to be a spokesperson for the White race. If she is truly curious, suggest she study Carter Woodson for herself.
Ask your classmate when she studies American History who does she think she is studying about? Isn't it White heritage? It's certainly not Black heritage. So why does she think it's unfair for you to study Black heritage? Take Thanksgiving, for instance. Who does she think the story of Thanksgiving is about? Those people who ate with the indigenous people of New England who possessed the American land before they killed them and took their lands? Has she been taught the truth about the American Indians? Who does she think she is studying about when she hears about the atrocities of slavery done to Africans by their white American captors? Who does your classmate think she is studying about when she celebrates Saint Patrick's Day and when she studies the lives of the first forty-three American Presidents? And why is there something wrong with wanting to study the forty-fourth President?
Our Black ancestors were Africans although they called them slaves. Remind your classmate that slave is what our ancestors did as labor that built America. It was never who they were. They were children of God forced by violence to work for free, just as a prostitute is forced by violence to work for free and give the money she earns to a pimp. But in America, Whites called themselves, "Captors", however, they were no different in function than a pimp. The prostitute just as the slave always struggles to return to freedom.
A man who is free and whose life is filled with opportunities is a racist when he wants to stop the opportunities for progress of another man just because of his ethnic heritage? It is jealousy when one man wants what another man has just because the other man has it? Whites, who want to stop the study of Blacks in a land where Blacks have contributed so much, are racists. To want to only study about White History, to the exclusion of Black History, even to the degree of changing it to, "Ethnic History, is bigotry and racism!