African-American Millennials say they never really learned anything useful during Black History Month activities at school, and they fret that having a formal, month-long observance gives the nation a pass to ignore black history the rest of the year.— Shreveport Times
Black youth today are so far removed from the events recapitulated during Black History Month that some question whether Black History Month is still necessary. Obviously, those who think this way have probably never heard of George Santayana who famously said:
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
I ask you, what self-respecting people throws away its history? It would be foolish to do so. Every successive generation needs to know how it got to where it is in order to determine its future course. No one questions if the Revolutionary War or the Holocaust are still relevant do they? Black History Month reminds both blacks and whites of how far we’ve come since the days of slavery, Jim Crow, and the Civil rights Movement, and what it took for us to get this far. Black History Month gives blacks a chance to tell our history from our point of view.
But no matter, blacks have earned a place in American history whenever the story of America is told. Black History Month serves as documentation of this fact. And while it may be inspiring and instructive to look in the rear view mirror of black history from time to time, each new generation is responsible for confronting the issues of its day, finding solutions, and carving out its own place in history. For 21st century blacks, the issues of racial equality and social justice are not unlike those of the last 100 years of black history in America. Black History Month should motivate 21st century blacks to continue to confront American society until these conditions no longer exist.
Black lives do matter.
Doing away with Black History Month would be like “cutting off our nose to spite our face,” so to speak. Black youth need Black History Month to understand their place in the fight for racial equality and social justice. As the mantle passes to a new generation, the question for 21st century blacks is not how far we’ve come, but where we’re headed?
Black History Month takes us beyond Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s, “I Have A Dream” speech to the question King himself posed is in his last book, “Where Do We go From Here: Chaos or Community?” In his 1967 book, Dr King described the condition of black people in America as follows:
- Half of all Negroes live in substandard housing
- Negroes have half the income of whites
- There are twice as many Negroes unemployed
- The rate of infant mortality among Negroes is double that of whites
- In elementary schools, Negroes lag one to three years behind whites
- One twentieth as many Negroes as whites attend college
- Of employed Negroes, 75 percent hold menial jobs
Former Harvard professor and theologian Cornel West says not much has changed from 1967 to now, even with a black president in the White House. In fact, West believes Obama deserves some of the blame for the lack of progress:
Black people have suffered more in this age than in the recent past. Empirical indices of infant mortality rates, mass incarceration rates, mass unemployment and dramatic declines in household wealth reveal this sad reality. How do we account for this irony? It goes far beyond the individual figure of President Obama himself, though he is complicit; he is a symptom, not a primary cause. Although he is a symbol for some of either a post-racial condition or incredible Black progress, his presidency conceals the escalating levels of social misery in poor and Black America. —Black Prophetic Fire (Beacon Press) by Cornel West.
West is not alone in his low estimation of black progress. In 2014, The National Urban League released the 38th edition of its annual report on “The State of Black America,” which details economic disparities that impede black progress. The 2014 edition analyzes the problems caused by black unemployment and underemployment. In the short span of 50 years, black people have gone from “We shall overcome.” to “Black lives matter.” Without Black History Month, 21st century blacks would have no clue how these two protests are connected. If Black History Month can teach America anything about our shared past, it’s that the struggle for racial equality and social justice is one we must win together.
I don’t feel no ways tired, I’ve come too far from where I started from. Nobody told me that the road would be easy, I don’t believe He brought me this far to leave me.— Lyrics by Curtis Burrell