Op-ed

Commentary: It’s time to end Black History Month

Why do we want to divide America?

Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

I suspected this would be an unpopular proposal among preening liberals but was shocked at how many conservatives were also appalled by the idea that we do away with one of the most useless observances in the country after National Cookie Day: Black History Month.

After I suggested this on social media, my inbox instantly flooded with messages from confused and outraged conservatives. To those people, I would ask: What is the point of Black History Month? It's to allow white liberals to feel “woke" for a month while doing absolutely nothing whatsoever to educate themselves about history and the real story of African-Americans in this country. They get to add BHM-themed filters to their Snapchat photos while spending time no differently than they do any other month of the year. Nike, of course, gets to release its “black people" shoe collection, because when has Nike ever turned down using racial strife to turn a profit?

And Cory “Spartacus" Booker gets to drop his actor demo reel for the Hallmark Channel, disguised as a presidential announcement, to stoke the flames of America's racial division even further. Then, promptly on March 1, we forget about black people's particular history and pretend to care about the next group beleaguered by imaginary marginalization: women! Swap out everything black for everything pink, accomplish nothing, and repeat next year.

Republicans insist it must be a good thing because Black History Month was first recognized by Gerald Ford, a Republican! (Yes, the “Republican" whose biggest accomplishment was losing Vietnam to the communists.) Ford said: “We can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."

Well, how many pan-African flag sock-wearing liberals can actually name the accomplishments of black Americans, other than the “hero" who knelt for the national anthem and the maverick woman who “valiantly" lost the Georgia gubernatorial race? How many of these people are actually taking the time to read the words of Frederick Douglass or Martin Luther King Jr. or Booker T. Washington? Not many. Even fewer take the time to educate themselves about lesser-known historical black figures like James Armistead Lafayette, who helped George Washington win the Revolutionary War, or Peter Salem, the hero at Bunker Hill.

The argument goes that it's actually intended for the schools. The 1920s precursor to Black History Month — Negro History Week — was designed to spend a week in school focusing on the history of American blacks in public schools. Perhaps that was needed then. Not so much now.

If you're teaching American history in a semester and black people aren't an integral part of the story, then you're teaching it wrong. You cannot teach the history of the Civil War without mentioning Harriet Tubman or Sojourner Truth. You cannot teach 1960s history without teaching students about Rosa Parks. When you really learn American history, you of course find that — as in every other race — there are heroic black people like MLK and Richard Allen. And then, there are some bad apples like Malcom X and Barack Obama.

How much longer must we look at American history as a story of “black history" versus “white history"? If we keep doing that, we should give white people a White History Month. And then of course, Hispanics have their own heritage month, but maybe they should get a Latino History Month. (Er, I'm sorry, Latinx History Month... or maybe the transgender ones will get the following month.) And once we've chopped the country up into tiny little groups based on immutable features like race and gender, we will have become the Divided States of America. Why would anyone want to celebrate an event that promotes that outcome, like Black History Month?

It's unnerving when Hollywood actors get it better than our public intellectuals, but actor Morgan Freeman was right when he said: “I don't want a Black History Month. Black history is American history." And no part of American history deserves to be relegated to just one month.

One last thing…
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