The views expressed in this article are the views of the author.
Now that black history month is over, it’s the perfect time to discuss the idea that it shouldn’t exist. Or rather, it shouldn’t have to exist. Black history month is just one example of how the history and culture of minority communities are still separate, even if we’re no longer pretending that they’re seen as equal.
It’s important to recognize the achievements and backstory of different cultural groups and I understand why history months exist at the moment. Unfortunately, it feels like they are too often used as an excuse not to talk about the history or culture of specific minority communities during the other 11 months of the year.
People who lack an understanding of the reasoning for black history month ask why there isn’t a white history month. Their ignorance actually hits on an interesting point. There isn’t a white history month because that’s what the norm is. That’s the history that is taught in classrooms, and plenty of white people are recognized for their achievements year-round.
At the point that all people are given equal spotlight and recognition for their contributions to modern society, democracy, justice or just the overall history of the world, there wouldn’t need to be a separate spotlight month. But because there’s a dominant image of who shaped the world, everyone else needs the curtain drawn back for them. But we could just put them on stage from the beginning.
Education and conversation about such topics should be integrated into every part of the year at all levels of education. But it’s not just about timing, it’s about how it’s taught or not taught. There are African American History elective courses for example, but that material should be integrated into the broader curriculum of History. Prominent literature from African American authors should be in general literature courses.
Many people with other ethnic backgrounds don’t even have the option to take classes that are geared toward exploring their history. Latinx people might get a surface-level exploration of Latin America in Spanish class, but no more than that. But that’s okay because there might be a few days spent talking about Simón Bolívar in September.
Whether there’s a day to recognize indigenous people or a month to recognize Asian and Pacific American heritage, there’s an unfortunate side effect. That recognition starts to feel out of place outside that designated period. Even writing this article, there’s an idea that it isn’t “timely,” because black history month is over; it’s time to put black history back on the shelf. That’s exactly why I decided to write the article now.
In addition to sidelining minorities, focusing on the “history” of cultural groups during their designated month, especially regarding their struggles, makes it seem as though the issues aren’t still alive and kicking. It’s important that we do more than pay lip service to equal treatment of people’s cultures and histories. These days, or weeks or months are only a stopgap measure.
Setting aside time to recognize people who aren’t given a voice isn’t a bad thing, but the ideal situation would be to make sure that everyone has a voice from the beginning.