Saturday, February 28, 2009

Why Black History Month?

If I were the Benevolent Dictator, black history--like women's history or the history of the Irish in America--would simply be taught as part of American History, and we wouldn't have Black History Month.

A friend I told this to disagreed. "You love your wife 365 days of the year," he said via e-mail. "But you still celebrate Valentine's Day."

Well, maybe, but having a separate month almost seems to say black history is separate from American history. The truth, however, is that it's almost impossible to imagine America without black people.

The thing is, there weren't any Americans--except Native Americans--when the first Africans and Europeans encountered each other here. The moment that encounter began, however, Africans and Europeans began to make each other into Americans.

That idea seems pretty simple--and pretty obvious--to me, but you'd be surprised at the people who have trouble with it.

Some of them, white and liberal mostly, want to
get history books to call slaves "enslaved persons" instead of slaves.

I understand why, but the root of the word slave is Slav, because at one time in history, Slavs were other people's property. The word enslaved removes us one step from the realization.

Then, too, there's this: White people told my ancestors they were slaves. Now, centuries later, other whites are telling me my ancestors were enslaved persons.

I don't see the difference. Either way, it's white people telling me what my ancestors should be called.

1 comment:

Sara J. Henry said...

This is how I feel about many issues - Bicycling magazine used to have a women's column (which I'm a bit ashamed to say I wrote for) - I thought its existence was incredibly demeaning to women, as if the poor dears couldn't comprehend the rest of the magazine and have to have their own separate column. Granted, women's bike fit is a bit different and there's that issue of cycling while pregnant that men don't deal with, but those could have been covered in separate features.