Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Can "White History Year" Still Be Relevant in a Multicultural Society?

Mr. McWhorther (of The Root):

This is no time to end Black History Month.  What white America "gets" about Black people is equivalent to what a law student gets in his first two months of law school: confused and afraid, but certainly not fully educated.

The alternative to Black History Month is "White-History-Year". Before Black History Month, white and Black students learned about the French, Spanish Dutch and English settlers of America and were required to remember all of their names and dates. Meanwhile, we were not required to remember the name or date of any Black person whatsoever.

It was thought that no Black person had done anything worthy of being considered in "American History." And so "American History" was really nine or ten insufferable months of "White-History-Year" for grade school students. I don't want my nephews and nieces to suffer through that.

Black History Month's purpose is not just to teach whites about Blacks' contribution, but it is also to teach Black children about Blacks contributions. I don't think we can just assume that all Black children (or white children) know that Black man invented the blood bank:

and another Black man, Garret A. Morgan, invented the traffic light and gas masks:

If grade schools and universities don't teach this information to Black and white and Latino students, then how will they ever know? Does everyone Black and white "get it" already? I didn't know a Black man invented the gas mask until I began researching the names of these Black inventors in order to post this comment.

Blacks and whites still need Black History Month because it compels text book publishers to include Blacks in their textbooks and it also compels white teachers to follow the curriculum by discussing Blacks, at least for twenty days out of each year.

Finally, we cannot end Black History Month because the alternative is White-History-Year.