We are pleased to share guest posts by local Rochester community members throughout this year’s 2nd Annual Digital Black History Month Education Campaign day (XVII)
Why Do You Still Need a Black History Month by Chris Thompson
I hear this question every February, along with, “When will we no longer need a specific month?”, “What’s the point in segregating history?”, and the seminal classic, “Why isn’t there a White History Month?”. So why do we still need a “Black History Month”? Because 70 years of an annual monthly focus on a group of people does not make up for the previous 400 years of ignoring, exploiting, and denigrating them. Because it is 2019, and there are grown adults in Rochester, NY who have never heard of Frederick Douglass. Because we still keep having to have the “blackface talk” nearly every month. There are still states that fly confederate flags on their state capitals, and one state still has a confederate flag in its state flag. Because there are cars and trucks and porches in New York State that proudly fly confederate flags. Because people still don’t realize that the third verse of our national anthem, the song that we claim is a song of unity and patriotic pride, calls for our deaths, and the author of that anthem spent his entire life trying to make black folks’ lives miserable through legal means. Because the people don’t realize that racial epithets, of which they claim to have never heard, are things we have heard accompanied with violence our whole lives. Because we are part of this community, despite historical efforts to separate or eradicate us. Because we have contributed to the wealth of this nation when it was fledgling, whether we wanted to or not. All of those people who claimed to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” to gain family wealth had black hands pulling them up for them. Because we have died for this country even before the country existed. Because you would not be reading this online had a black woman not paved the way for fiber optic cable development. You would be lost on your road trip were it not for a black person’s help in developing your GPS. You would still be using a manual gear shift were it not for a black person’s innovation. You would still be hanging your clothes on a line instead of putting them in a dryer. That blood transfusion you needed would be much more difficult without the existence of blood banks. Your desk lamp would not exist, and neither would your grandma’s pacemaker. Your lawn would be overgrown, because sprinklers and lawnmowers would not exist. ADT and Nest would be much less reliable security systems without CCTV features. I could go on for hours regarding all the things great and small that we take for granted that would not be around had it not been for a black inventor. I always have to remind folks Black History is EVERYONE’S history. Black folks have been around since before the concept of “black” and “white” folks was developed. Worldwide, black history spans all the way back to when history was recorded. It is not just the period between 1619 and 1865, and then 1954 to 1968. The attempt to Old Testament/New Testament Black history and accomplishments is lazy and patronizing at best. Martin Luther King is not our Messiah, and George Washington Carver is not our Holy Mother, Saint of Peanuts. Most people’s education around black history are these figures and a sanitized view of slavery. If you have ever asked why we need a Black History Month, but you cannot name at least 10 black innovators in your field of work, then you have answered your own question. Black History Month and African American history classes are not attempting to divide or segregate history. Black history fills part of the gaps left by a general history class. Schools always had specialized history classes, be it natural history, Medieval history, European history, American history, etc. At the end of the day, Black History is another part of history that gives a fuller picture of our past. Embrace that, and perhaps we’ll get a few steps closer to that unity everyone dreams of.
About the Campaign
Every day throughout the month of February 540Blog will devote space to sharing Little Known Facts About Black Americans Throughout History. For us every month is Black History Month but we recognize and support the continuous need to take time and space to put a special spotlight on the accomplishments of Black and brown Americans from all ethnicities that have literally changed the course of history and yet have legacies that are not know by the masses.