The Farce of Black History Month

So there’s a good chance that this post might upset some people. I kinda hope it does, to be honest…

Black History Month is a farce. Just like June being Pride Month for the LGBTQ community. Now before you get your panties (or boxers, if you’re a butch) in a bunch, hear me out. After all, I’ve got Morgan Freeman on my side…

That’s right…A photo and video of an interview conducted with Morgan Freeman is circulating Facebook. It is February, so it’s not surprising this is surfacing again. The interview was from 2005, when Mike Wallace was interviewing Freeman on 60 Minutes. Here’s the video:

I agree. Black History Month is ridiculous. So is Pride Month. Why should our history be broken down into one month, when we exist 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year?

“Here, we’ll give you one month to talk about yourselves and where you came from, despite the fact that your history dates back to the beginning of the world.”

Gee, thanks.

I understand the historical significance of the idea of a special month for a group of people. But I find it insulting. Because everything of historical significance that has happened to (and within) the LGBTQ community did not just occur in the month of June. Yes, Stonewall did. And Stonewall is definitely something to remember. But look at the leaps and bounds our community has seen in the years since. The same can be said for Black History Month. February is Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass’s birthdays. But, there are other dates in history that are just as important, if not more so, for Black Americans.

The 13th Amendment was adopted in December. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is in January. These seem to be pretty important events to me, so why localize their importance to one month? Harriet Tubman didn’t limit the rescuing of slaves through the Underground Railroad only during the month of February.

To pick just one month, be it arbitrary or specific, to celebrate one’s history, including their struggles and triumphs, is insulting. Why can’t we have Pride festivals year round? Why can’t we have celebrations on anniversaries of triumphs, instead of one giant gathering that really is nothing more than a parade and an opportunity to get shit-faced drunk with a group of like-minded people? Hell, I can do that whenever I want. How can Pride be so special if we only get one month to celebrate it? What do you do when you go to a Pride festival? How much do you pay attention at booths like those of the HRC or GLAAD? Do you know if your college or your children’s schools have a GSA? How involved are you truly in the fight for equality? Reposting news articles on Facebook isn’t enough anymore.

Another aspect of the farce is something Freeman says in the interview. When Mike Wallace asks “How are we going to get rid of racism?” Freeman replies, “Stop talking about it.”

I’ve seen comments on Facebook ranting about how stupid that statement is. That ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. Well, to you I say – you’re idiots. Freeman isn’t saying to ignore the issue. But when we turn to racism and discrimination to explain why we can’t get ahead in the world, we’re making ourselves victims. We’re victimizing ourselves.

Yes, it’s important, desperately important, to remember the pain we’ve all gone through, to remember the past. Because after all, without the past we wouldn’t be where we are today. But a continual focus on the struggle, on the negative, does nothing to clear our path to further our cause for equality. Yes, it’s important to recognize the negative, to remember the past, but it’s even more important to recognize the future, and to remember where we’re headed.

When we look at people and say “He’s Black, she’s a lesbian, that one over there is gay, etc.” we’re putting them in boxes. We’re categorizing them. We categorize ourselves. But that one box we’re stuck in…that doesn’t define us. Yes I’m a lesbian, but that’s only a part of who I am. I’m a writer, an animal lover. I’m agnostic, I’m Dutch, German, French, Polish, and Native American. I’m a Michigander. I’m a dreamer, a hopeless romantic. All of these things make up who I am. Don’t nail me down to any one category.

When we say “He’s Black, she’s a lesbian” we’re judging each other. We’re creating standards by which we can later use against that person to hurt, to exclude, to belittle. Instead of saying “He’s Black, she’s a lesbian” we should be looking at one another and simply saying “He’s human. She’s human.”

You should most definitely be proud of who you are and where you come from. But limiting that to one month out of a year is ludicrous. Celebrate who you are year round. Remember your history year round.

Who I am is far more important than 1/12th of a year.

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