I am not a fan of Black History Month. For one, it becomes a month crammed with everything Black/African/Caribbean and then we don’t see much of it the rest of the year. You can read other musings here. But this year, I have another angle that adds to my disdain.
I recently had a conversation with a new friend (who is Black) who said to me “Frankly, I’m done with Black history. What about Black future?” It was a great question and gave me pause.
History is important
History is important. And the reason we have a Black History Month is that typically some histories (dominant group identities) are known and told, while others (non-dominant group identities) are forgotten, misrepresented, or not even known to begin with. Black History Month was created to rectify the invisibility of Black history, lives, and experiences in not only the school curriculum, but our collective North American psyche. Black history was invisible. Thanks to a dedicated focus during one month of each year, we hope to have created (and keep creating) more awareness about Black history. But to what end?
Using History to Learn
We have to use history as a platform for discussion, analysis, awareness raising, and critical thinking about how far we have come (or if we have come far) and where we are going – not just stories about what happened (not to mention the choice of which stories we tell – that will be a post for another day).
If we did this, we would talk about the invention of race, how it was used to dehumanize a group of people and led to slavery. We would talk about the reality of systemic racism as it looks today; how slavery became Jim Crow, and then became embedded into laws not just in the USA, but in Canada as well. And how the legacy of this lives on today in the ways Black bodies are perceived, treated, mistreated, overlooked, and sidelined to the point that we need a movement called Black Lives Matter – because Black lives haven’t mattered and they still don’t. Not really.
So my friend’s statement was wise.
What about Black present and future?
Where are we going? And how are we going to get there?
What is going to change? And how will it happen? Who is already doing it?
And what do we need to see, learn, do, be, to help create a different future for Black people?
So that the Black history we teach the next generation may be different from the one we are teaching now.