Friday, March 22, 2013
Black History Month
Black History Month was first legally acknowledged in the United States in the 1970s and is celebrated in March each year. It is also celebrated in the UK in October. I went to an all girls private school in London which was almost entirely white. This, it would seem, would be the opportune environment to implicate Black History Month to teach sheltered white students about Afro-Caribbean culture. Instead my seven years at secondary school were defined by learning mainly about the history of white men, a great tragedy in an all girls environment. My sister’s school, on the other hand, was a state school and was a much more multicultural environment. In her school they celebrated black history month every October and it provided her with an awareness of a culture other than her own.
The existence of Black History Month still causes debate, particularly in the United States. In recent months I have notice blogs that have been created to humorously comment on the opposition to ‘months’ which celebrate minorities. These posts are common on popular websites such as Buzzfeed (http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/dumbest-reactions-to-black-history-month) and whilst they are entertaining, they’re also incredibly frustrating. No amount of shouting “every month is white history month!” is enough to vent my annoyance over this matter. While there is an obvious amount of stupidity in these comments as they’re taken exclusively from social media resources, they provide a worrying insight into the popular opinions surrounding Black History Month.
Morgan Freeman famously condemned celebrating African American history as a separate event several years ago. However his argument is posed from a different perspective. In an interview for 60 Minutes in 2005, Freeman question why "you're going to relegate my history to a month." He went on to state that since there was no “white history month” there should be no Black History Month as it perpetuated divisions and indicated that African Americans were still being singled out as alien. He said the way to stop racism was to “stop talking about it”. The interviewer is noticeably uncomfortable with the accusatory tone Freeman takes and immediately tries to separate himself from ‘white history’ by stating that he is Jewish.
Freeman’s comments have been widely debated and criticised. His idealistic approach to history and race indicates that the United States is in a ‘post-racial society.’ I believe that race is something that should be celebrated and differences in culture need to be taught in schools like mine to educate young people who remain very much in a segregated school system. Black History Month is also a useful tool for instilling a sense of identity and pride in African American students. I agree with Freeman’s comments that black history defines American history, but I find his reasoning to be somewhat optimistic.
I know we talked about everyone’s individual experiences of Black History Month in their schools in class but I would like to bring the question up again. How was it addressed in your school? Do you think Freeman’s comments are damaging?
Posted by Scarlet McNally at 12:11 PM