In 1948, Albert Einstein was interviewed by the student newspaper at Cheney State College and he was asked his opinion about U.S. racial prejudice. He responded, “Racial prejudice has unfortunately become an American tradition which is uncritically handed down from one generation to the next. The only remedies are enlightenment and education. This is a slow and painstaking process in which all right thinking people should take part”.
At a time when some people have questioned the need for Black History Month, Einstein’s comments, though made over 60 years ago, make one of the best arguments in favor of Black History Month. His statement acknowledges the notion that Black History Month is the perfect vehicle to enlighten and educate society not only about Black achievement but also about the history of racism. The writer William Faulkner once said, “History isn’t just a reflection of what was it’s also a reflection of what is”. In other words, everything that’s happening today is rooted in the events of the past.
Enlightenment and education can be a slow and painstaking process especially if left to one’s own accord. However, Black History Month provides a three-step approach to make it a reality. First, it helps to dispel racist attitudes and beliefs. Second, it helps to develop pride and self-esteem within the Black community and third it helps to shed light on the roots of racism.
One of the cornerstones of racism is the belief in racial superiority. However, the notion of superiority can only exist if you remain ignorant about other races, specifically if you're unaware of their contributions to society. An unyielding racist doesn't want to know or accept anything about Black history or anybody else's history for that matter. They don't want anything to shake the foundation of their racist beliefs. Black History Month can help to chip away at those attitudes by highlighting the contributions of African Americans of the past and also by spotlighting current Black achievement.
At It’s A Black Thang.com (www.itsablackthang.com) we provide a multitude of Black History Month related items to help children and adults learn more about our past, present and future. We offer workbooks, pencils, bookmarks, posters, back packs, banners, and more. Each item features positive information and slogans about African American history.
Black History Month also helps to develop pride and self-esteem within the Black community. Images have a profound effect on the way we see the world and the way we perceive ourselves and others. By focusing on positive images and information, Black History Month provides a balance to the negative and often stereotypical images on television, and in films and music.
At It’s A Black Thang.com (www.itsablackthang.com) we offer almost 10,000 African American related products that help to build pride and self-esteem. We offer stunning artwork and figurines as well as memorabilia that honor the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, Buffalo Soldiers and Negro League Baseball.
Black History Month also helps to shed light on the history of racism. American society has experienced major social changes over the past 75 years. So it’s easy to get complacent and forget about the systematic racism and discrimination that once existed. It can be painful to watch or read about the lynchings, the church bombings, the attacks on Civil Rights marchers, and the tragedies at Rosewood, FL and Tulsa, OK. But as writer James Baldwin once said, “If you don’t know what happened behind you … you can never understand what’s happening around you.”
Black History Month is not just a time to reflect on the past, it’s also a time to acknowledge the current contributions that African Americans make to American society and to the rest of the world. During Black History Month we should measure how far we've advanced from the year before and provide information on things like: the number of Black middle-class families, the number of Black-owned businesses, the buying power of Black Americans, the number of registered voters, and the number of elected officials. This type of information should be reported by the media all month long.
The focus on Black History is necessary but we also have to highlight the progress we've made and celebrate our successes. We have to focus on where we're going and not just where we've been. As Einstein stated, only through enlightenment and education can we tear down the walls of racism and build a bridge to a better future.
Kane Kinnebrew III