Shortest Month of the Year

Shortest Month of the Year

Adrienne BoettingerTuesday,9 February 2016

Happy Black History Month! Of course, now that we’re living in a post-racial society we don’t need to care about race anymore. I mean, only racists care about what race someone is, right? Between statements like that and tweets from asshats asking when White History Month is (answer: every month), I’m about ready to staple things to people’s heads and that’s despite me feeling like I don’t have the right to be this annoyed by people griping about Black History Month. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll feel properly justified in my rage when clueless dicks whine about next month being Women’s History Month (or as my friend Aaron calls it, Happy International Happy Women Amelia Earhart Madeline Albright Month). But as a white woman do I have the right to be outraged now?

I don’t know but I am. I’m outraged because of course we’re not living in a post-racial society. If you think we are, it’s not because you’re so culturally evolved you don’t see color, it’s because you don’t recognize the very real hardships people of color grapple with to this day. The reason we give a month to recognize the role of African-Americans in ‘Murica’s collective history is because we have no attention span. We think about the moment we’re in and the immediate things impacting our lives and we tend not to learn from history or to spend time trying to understand the experiences, trials and tribulations of people other than our own.

President Obama didn’t create or stir up a race problem in this country. The election of President Obama and his refusal to stop being President despite the ardent wishes of a lot of morons complicates the ability of white pundits and politicians to act as if race isn’t an issue. President Obama isn’t some all-encompassing solution; just because he’s President now doesn’t make up for centuries of oppression.

We celebrate February as Black History Month not because it is the shortest and coldest month of the year (and thus less likely to end in a parade that terrifies frightened white people) but because of the relentless work of Carter Godwin Woodson, the son of former slaves who fought to honor the contributions of African-Americans with the creation of Negro History Week in 1926. He chose the week as it covered the birth dates of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

We can honor the month and do something towards making sure Black History doesn’t get swept up in the overwhelming tide of White (Male) American History by remembering more than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Frederick Douglass. We should reflect on the writing of Zora Neale Hurston, the ethically complicated contributions to science made by the exploitation of Henrietta Lacks and her family and the Tuskegee Study, the marshal Bass Reeves who captured over 4,000 criminals, the Slocum Massacre in Texas, and the turbulent tenure of the first African-American Surgeon General, Dr. Joycelyn Elders. There’s African-American astronauts and mathematicians and musicians and athletes galore to learn about and memorialize. Pick an area you’re interested in and make an effort to learn about the African-Americans who were and are integral to the topic. Tell your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Teach your kids and your parents. These efforts won’t make up for lifetimes of willful ignorance of the contributions of African-Americans. But it’s a start.

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Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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