Eduardo Alvarez/ Contributing Writer
Beloved actor Morgan Freeman has said that “Black History is American History.” He spoke these words live on 60 Minutes in criticism of U.S. society’s custom of focusing on the month of February to remember the great contributions of African-Americans at home and abroad.
He is right. This habit is a vestige of a time in which the country felt a great moral impetus and wished to do justice to a historically marginalized group. Although its intentions are good, the historical prism Black History Month creates actually has an ostracizing effect; a form of calendar segregation.
By separating that which was never separate into a mere twenty-eight days – and by not having an equivalent white history month – we are essentially saying that every other month is white history month, and as a consequence, white history becomes standard history; as if the hundreds of years of growth and development of peoples of African descent had occurred on a different planet.
If Americans start regarding themselves as Americans before everything else, we will find that at least ninety percent of our stupid controversies will vanish into thin air. I consider – and rightly so – that the life of Frederick Douglass and the poetry of Langston Hughes and the march on Selma is as much my history as anyone else’s, in the same way that no American should feel detached from the likes of Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln because of skin color.
We must embrace the truth of our interconnectedness; brilliantly explained by Martin Luther King Jr. and epicly proven with a single glance at images of the crowds that protested Jim Crow laws. Dr. King himself worked with other important individuals such as Cesar Chávez of the Latino rights movement and leaders of other U.S. labor movement.
In fact, King was assassinated while planning to attend a sanitation strike by African-American workers. In other words, one movement poured into the other. To understand one in all its fullness, it is necessary to study the other. In doing so, one will eventually arrive at a panorama; a single, united history.
Only after we have defined this principle should we branch off into historical subcategories. But there should not be a specific month for this. We should study any given facet of our past in any given month. Ultimately, every month is black history month. So let us take our passions of February and sprinkle them throughout our shared pastry.
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Photo by Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash.