February is Black History Month in the United States. It is the month where we, as a country, celebrate the achievements of African Americans. The month in which we acknowledge the contributions African American men and women have made to this country. It is the month in which school-aged children are made to listen to Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and are possibly given sheets containing his image to color and hang on a classroom wall.
Question: Why do we acknowledge these accomplishments, these contributions only one month a year? And why is it designated as “Black” history? When the historic contributions of people of European decent are discussed we do not refer to them as “white” history. The amount of melanin, or lack thereof, that exists within a person should have no bearing on when or if their accomplishments should be celebrated.
The question that must be asked is why certain inventions, accomplishments and/or achievements are treated differently simply based on one’s ancestral history. The contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Harriet Tubman, Dr. Charles Drew, George Washington Carver and so many others have helped to shape the very fiber of this country and served to benefit the lives of all Americans, not just those with African origins.
Dr. Charles Drew’s groundbreaking discoveries in the storage and processing of blood for transfusions are not limited in use to those individuals who are identified as Black. Nor are advancements in cataract treatment pioneered by Dr. Patricia Bath or open-heart surgeries pioneered by Dr. Daniel Williams. To continue to relegate the celebration of these and many more discoveries to a certain month of the year seems dismissive and disrespectful.
As mentioned earlier, Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech seems to be the go-to when teaching all things Black history. But, have we as a country ever stopped to truly listen to the words of his iconic speech? Dr. King said, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: …that all men are created equal.” If we are to ever accomplish this goal, we must rid ourselves of the notion that the history of Black Americans is in some way less than the history of white Americans and as such only worthy of 28 days of celebration. We must move past this divisive and discriminatory practice and embrace the equality of our history.
In closing, it is not Black History… it is simply history, our history, American history.