February's Black History Box

Black History Month is a beautiful thing when it's put on by those who are genuinely conscious of the profound role that blacks have had in this country. I respect that. But in light of the manner in which it has been celebrated throughout my twenty years of life in this country...well, from my experience, it's framed all wrong.

We definitely need to teach what contributions blacks have made, but before we teach about that we need to first talk about what it means for those contributions to be absent when it comes to the teachings of History itself. The problem is that our Anglo-centric educational system boxes "Black History" into a month, separating it from "U.S. History."

Everything, I guess, is easier to handle when its in some form of a box. Gender? Check a box. Race? Check a box. Juvenile delinquents go in this 'box,' adult criminals go in that one. And here, let's just draw a nice line around "US" to box them out.

This boxing happens in an infinite number of ways, and everything we box is something that we ultimately have no control over. You can label and incarcerate as many criminals as you want, but you'll never capture Evil itself.

Same with history lessons: all the class worksheets in the world wouldn't capture History. You'd have to have some kind of insane sheet of 'multicultural' paper that is infinite on all sides--where would I begin? And how? So I like my 8.5 by 11 sheet of white paper to study a historical timeline. Hey, why not? It's a way to get History under a false sense of control.

So here we are, in February's Black History Box. It's too overwhelming for the majority of our white educators to even consider history as a multifaceted subject. It's nicer to put it on that 8.5 by 11 sheet of paper where we can treat history as a linear progression of whiteness studded with black and brown featurettes here and there. So we box it up in a book, ship it to schools, and perpetuate history within a false sense of Anglo normativity.


Anonymous said...

On this issue, you should take a look at this link. At least from high-schoolers' standpoint, US history is not segregated from black history.