Every year during Black History Month, I am disappointed by the general and repetitive lessons on the three or four black individuals who “abolished” slavery. Though I admire and love the experiences of every black person throughout history, I would also like to see other avenues that were taken without the word “slavery” in the mix.
Black History Month is that time of the year that you see black people, adults and children alike, loving their heritage and appreciating the skin they’re in. However, what happens after February 28? Do we suddenly forget to incorporate black folk who have done amazing revolutionary things in the past into school lessons? I think that must change.
Showcasing black history as a normalized part of the history curriculum would cultivate productive and open-minded children. Not only would this teach students that black history predates slavery, it would also benefit the mental well-being of black children. It is natural that when seeing someone do something impressive while looking like you would make one feel good and hopeful about themselves. The way history is taught in schools all over North America shows how institutional racism is the root of why “white history is more important than black history.” It is far better to teach all history including indigenous history as part of the natural curriculum than preserve a month out of the year. I feel what is taught during February doesn’t do black history justice, and that is why the state should do their bid and finally showcase the black excellence throughout the ages in every classroom.
I interviewed children about what they think about black history and the answers were just what I expected.
As one example, I asked a 10-year-old student to name an astronaut. The student responded with the obvious choice as Neil Armstrong. However, when I asked the student to name a black astronaut, there was no answer. He was not able to think of an example. I told the student about the first black astronaut, Air Force Maj. Robert H. Lawrence, who was only acknowledged 30 years after his death by the US government. This shows that white history is more normalized and taught excessively. It is important to teach children the contributions of black people because when we see white men and women in positions of power and fame, this could lead to non-white students to have a less hopeful view of what they could become.
Certainly, educatiion begins at home but it is also built in school systems. Therefore reform must start from within educational institutions. Black History Month needs to become history, then and only then can we begin the work that was “intended” when providing the shortest month of the year to a community that has done revolutionary and mind-blowing things.