The month of February is Black History Month. Everyone who has attended elementary school in America since Ford created the month-long celebration in 1972 knows this. However, I recall doing little more than watching videos of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech or reading a poem by Langston Hughes. To me as a child, Black History Month meant learning about more about the artistic achievements of influential African Americans. It almost felt as Hallmark as putting Valentines in our classmates’ cubbies on the 14th. However, I could not have been more mistaken with its true meaning. George Yancy’s opinion article in NY Times, “It’s Black History Month. Look in the Mirror,” opened my eyes to the lack of white participation in this celebration. As a student, I had failed to recognize that part of Black History Month is the remembrance of suffering and pain that African Americans have endured since the founding of this nation. How I experienced Black History Month represents a missed opportunity for all races in our nation to join together in a shared vulnerability and a solemn recognition of the past, which has left a scar on our society. Yancy most eloquently put its:
“Acknowledge that whiteness saved those who looked like you from the vicious barbarity visited upon black people. And in that moment, I want you to lament a country that continues to grant privilege to whiteness, that continues to fall far short of what is written on parchment.”
Yancy challenges white Americans to not shrug off the importance of Black History Month. Instead, we must looking in the mirror and recognize the dehumanizing terrors which haunt our history. Perhaps a collective mourning in remembrance of these atrocities will bring us a step closer to ending the systematic discrimination and racial hierarchy that persists in our society. I argue that the intellectual and artistic achievements of African Americans should not be recognized in the month of February but every month, without a distinction from any other artists of any other race. Black History Month should be reimagined in our culture to adequately give African Americans the apology they deserve and to make our whiteness not an advantage, like it continues to be in society, but as a sign of regret for all that we have not had to endure, and all that we have caused others to.