Opinion: Don’t overlook Black History Month
Well, it’s the first of March. I hope all of you had a wonderful month of February. But I hope some of you remember that February was Black History Month. I was rarely reminded by many of my friends, by the news and rarely by the school. It has come to my attention that the effectiveness of Black History Month is being questioned.
In 1926, Carter G. Woodson, an African-American historian, established Black History Month. However, back then it was referred to as “Negro History Week.” That name alone expresses the need for such a holiday so that the rest of the American mainstream can learn that African-Americans made contributions to our society. Over time, it evolved from a week to a month, while the term “negro” was replaced with “colored,” then “black,” and then “African-American.”
I may not have had the same experiences as my ancestors, but it doesn’t make me feel any better that it happened to my ancestors and that it affected the rest of my family tree. African-Americans have been through one of the greatest atrocities in human history and it shouldn’t be avoided. My people went through centuries of slavery, a type of slavery so rarely seen in the world. They were being bred and pulled from their families like cattle and worked until death in poor conditions.
The word “nigger” was not just a derogatory term to speak insultingly to Africans or those of African descent, but as a symbolic word that referred to blacks as an inhuman breed that seemed almost like a missing link between man and ape.
African-Americans have an entirely different culture all their own. Our African ancestry completely assimilated as soon our ancestors arrived to America, were given new names, lost their culture and had to create their own. It’s a bit uncomfortable not knowing where exactly my family came from, where my pride can only stretch to a continent, an unclear genealogy that can never be recovered.
And with nothing short of a civil war to pry the cold grip of slavery from the South, blacks were given freedom. But for another hundred years, my ancestors had to suffer the oppression of their own government conspiring against their success.
It has rarely happened to me, but race is still an issue and will be for quite some time. I remember being called a nigger by someone in a speeding Jeep while walking home while in middle school. I was also told that “interracial relationships should get fucked” while walking home one summer night with my girlfriend. Although not as bad as being lynched, chased by the KKK, having my church bombed or being forced to work on a plantation, I was still frightened and insulted.
Out of all this, my ancestors have been able to take truly nothing but the rags on their backs, and with a forgotten past of their homeland, were able to do great things.
Granted that Americans work toward an integrated society, Black History Month should be revered not for the accomplishments of one race, but for the perseverance and strength of a culture with all the odds against them rising up to equality.