Well today is the last day of February 2016, and thus the last day of the “official” celebration of Black History Month in the U.S. This year has been no different from previous years in regards to some people voicing the opinion that celebrating Black History Month is not necessary and should be squelched right along with all the conversations and voices confronting the issues of continued racism present in today’s society.
A couple of days ago one of my FB friends posted a clip of a 60 minutes interview of one of my favorite African American actors, Morgan Freeman. In the clip Mr. Freeman boldly stated that in his opinion the celebration of Black History Month is “ridiculous”. He explained that Black History is in fact American History and that it cannot be relegated to one month of the year. In regards to “racism”, Mr. Freeman said that the way to get rid of it is to “stop talking about it!” After listening to the clip and reading the many comments of support for Mr. Freeman’s point of view, I without any reservation concluded that this would be one of those many times in my life where I chose to respectfully disagree.
You see, I don’t believe that the celebration of Black History Month is at all “ridiculous” but rather quite the opposite (i.e. sensible, reasonable, good and wise). I do agree with Mr. Freeman that Black History is American History and in all actuality cannot be relegated to just one month of the year since it is in fact happening everyday!
And although I have often heard the questions “How long should we celebrate or when should we stop celebrating Black History Month?” When I consider these questions my mind immediately ponders on the hundreds of years of legalized slavery that my ancestors endured and overcame. As I fathom the number of years of legalized slavery in America the answer to me seems quite simple. Let’s keep celebrating Black History Month for at least as many years as legalized slavery was allowed to exist in this country of ours. At minimum, at least half as long. (Note: The U.S. officially recognized the celebration of Black History Month in 1976, only 40 years ago.)
In regards to Morgan’s comment about “getting rid of racism” by “not talking about it”. Again, I have to respectfully disagree. Problems and challenges are rarely if ever solved by not talking about them or ignoring that they exist. As a matter of fact quite the opposite happens; they seem to fester.
So on this last day of the official celebration of Black History Month 2016 I end where I began. With Ceasar Chavez’s quote “Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures.” And I would add, “Nor should it be met with contempt or disrespect from other cultures.” Instead, let us embrace and celebrate our rich tapestry of diversity!