Undercelebrated And Overrated
MANUEL PALOU / THE REPORTER
Influential Achievements Now Overlooked
As modern day Americans, we have lost awareness of the original purpose behind Black History Month.
Conceived in 1926, Black History Month was originally known as “Negro History Week.” African Americans from all across the country celebrated the accomplishments other African Americans made since the end of the Civil War.
But where is that enthusiasm now?
It’s true that the conflicts we face do not compare to those experienced at the turn of the 19th century, but Black History Month today has not reached Americans the way it was originally intended to.
It’s not due to the lack of information easily attained but the lack of drive or even motivation to find out more about the culture and history of African Americans.
We’ve become accustomed to the more popular African Americans in history. The overuse of these individuals has overshadowed our perceptions of others who were just as influential in the progress of the civil reformation.
Ever heard of Carter G. Woodson? Woodson, along with a group of other intellectuals, created the Journal of Negro History in 1916, which documented and archived black achievements. He wanted to expand the information on a national level.
Woodson along with his colleagues eventually created what we know today as Black History Month.
Before writing this column I had no idea who Woodson was. Why? I don't know, but during this month, especially, we need to recognize the many contributions every single African Americans have made to the American social landscape.
The Celebrating Of Hyphen-Americans
Not unlike Jason Bourne, America is having an identity crisis.
We don’t know who we are as individuals unless our titles as citizens are modified to include our heritage.
No American is simply an American and every important piece of paperwork we fill out is proof of that.
From the moment we enter second grade and begin the systematic torture that is FCAT testing, we are subjected to a subliminal awareness of race.
Bubble A if you’re “white”, B if you’re “Hispanic-American”, C if you’re “African-American”, etc; God forbid your parents are interracial (or worse, muggles) or you’ll have to resort to bubbling in the embarrassing “other” option (because, let’s face it, who wants to be another-American?)
The problem is that the political correctness of it all is a hindrance to the progress of racial integration; when all we can do is emphasize our differences, what person in their right mind would equate them to equality?
In case the reminder to dust off your African mask replicas and Dashikis didn’t already tip you off, the month of February is the official Black History Month.
With that said, one question arises: why does the need exist to classify and isolate any one fraction of our people?
In the same way that October fails in its purpose of promoting union among the races as Hispanic Heritage Month, Black History Month does little but disrupt the belief in the ideals for which Dr. King himself strove for: unification.
Will gender and age become a part of the nomenclature at some point? Will this country’s older black men become “middle-aged-male- African-Americans;” will typical American children born to Asian parents become known as “Asian-American-toddlers”; and will white women all around the country become accustomed to choosing the “young-female-European-Americans” response on their SAT bubble sheets (where, to the relief of all women, “young” is used loosely)?
As if trying to emulate the seemingly cumbersome system used for classifying dog breeds, our strange societal thirst for specificity seems like a never-ending journey on the quest for semantics which can only get worse if not corrected.
Why the hell are we still trying, as if with the determination of a thirsty, client-less drug dealer in the middle of a desert, to sell the illusion of race to generation after generation of our youth? Race is no more a legitimate concept than is the idea that Edward Cullen is a real person or that Jedi is an actual religion.
Despite the hundred million thousand essays middle school kids have written on America’s greatest treasure, its “melting pot” diversity, aren’t we all just Americans at the end of the day?
Dedicating an entire month to “celebrating” a culture our young nation has harmed is not only asinine, but a haphazard approach that reads: “here, stop complaining, you have your own month.”
It’s a cheap way out; and it’s only harming the perceptions we hold of our equals; making us believe lines and separations exist where they do not: something we must never allow.
Plus, I’m pretty sure the United States is bound to run out of months at some point.