Why is there a Black History Month? I believe America uses it as another form of segregation in disguise. In school, I was taught that American history began with the voyage of Christopher Columbus. However, the voyage of Christopher Columbus didn’t end in America, even though there wasn’t an America. So why isn’t his voyage celebrated during Italian history month? When I take a realistic look at American history the two groups that have made the largest contributions appear to be the English and the Africans and this raises another question. Why don’t we have an English history month?
When I take a closer look at all the American historical contributions Africans and their descendants have made, I come away with the belief that they may have made more contributions to America’s history than any other group. If I’m right maybe we do deserve a special month of recognition. Other forms of segregation in disguise are the Civil Rights Bill and the Voters Rights Act. Why do I need a civil rights bill to give me the rights that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights guarantee all Americans? Why does Denzel Washington need a Civil Rights Bill and Tom Hanks doesn’t? Why does Lebron James need a Voters’ Rights Act and Tom Brady does not? To me, the Civil Rights Bill and the Voters Rights Act are simply forms of segregation in disguise. When I think of these disguises it reminds me of the Supreme Court decision in the case of Dred Scott v Sanford.
In 1846, Dred Scott had sued for his freedom. He argued that because he had lived in Illinois, a free state, and later in Wisconsin, a free territory, he should not revert to becoming a slave after his master’s widow brought him to Missouri, a slave-holding state. Scott won his suit in a lower court, but the Missouri Supreme Court reversed the decision. Scott appealed, and because his new master, John F.A. Sanford, was a New York resident, the case moved to the federal courts. On finally reaching the high tribunal, the majority held that since Scott was once a slave, he lacked standing to sue. The framers of the U.S. Constitution, Chief Justice Taney wrote, believed blacks were “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” Citing the phrase “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence, Taney argued, “It is too clear for dispute that the enslaved African race was not intended to be included and formed no part of the people who framed and adopted this declaration.”
Since Black History Month began, it has never been just a celebration of Black America’s achievements and contributions; it’s also an attempt to be recognized as equal citizens. Yet lost in today’s articles of Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad or George Washington Carver’s peanuts is black America’s claim as co-authors of U.S. history, a reality that this nation has yet to accept.
Black History Month reminds us of black achievements, but what have those achievements got us? We have Brown v. Board of Education, and yet the racial segregation of public schools remains. We have the Fair Housing Act, and racial segregation in housing has barely changed in nearly four decades and now America has elected a President who has lost two lawsuits for violating the Fair Housing Act. We have the Fifteenth Amendment and yet state laws still create methods that adversely affect black voters. Black unemployment remains at twice the rate of white Americans. Black wealth is nearly ten times less than white wealth. Black Americans are incarcerated at a rate five times more than whites. Black health care continues to be worse when it comes to heart disease, asthma, infant mortality, diabetes and the racial gap in cancer deaths is widening.
These are not just problems with America’s laws; it’s a problem in America’s character. If America thought the black experience in America is unacceptable, America would have addressed it by now. But it has not, because black life is viewed as less valuable than white lives in America.
Black History Month’s goal should be to recognize the truth of the Black contribution to America’s history. The month that is recognized as Black History Month is also the shortest month of the year with only 28 days.