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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Is it already that time of year?

It must be: Black lecturers are busy on the speaking circuit; black authors have been pushed to the front shelves of bookstores; schoolteachers, black, white and brown, are teaching their charges how George Washington Carver, ah, invented the peanut.

It’s Black History Month, that annual tribute to the accomplishments of black Americans, whose ingenuity, perseverance, creativity and fortitude made America what it is today. But there is a problem with the yearly observance: It manages to make black history seem a thing apart, a separate reality, a slender appendix to the encyclopedia of American history.

It isn’t. Black history is American history — baked and bricked into the nation’s foundations. And that’s how it ought to be taught, right in the same volumes as the Boston Tea Party, the settling of the Old West, the defeat of the Nazis. Black Americans were part of each of those monumental chapters, as well as countless less-celebrated episodes.

It’s time to retire the annual celebration, as outdated now as rotary phones, segregated drinking fountains, and the term “Negro.” Ask yourself this: Will the current occupant of the White House — president of all of the United States, not merely of its black citizens — be celebrated only in February?

Carter Woodson, a black historian, started Negro History Week in 1926, when racism was still raw, public accommodations segregated and the Ku Klux Klan a powerhouse. The notion that black Americans were intellectually inferior and that they should be assigned a second- (or third- or fourth-) class status was taken for granted by most whites, including the leadership classes.

Woodson saw that black contributions to American history “were overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them.” He began a systematic study of black history and chose a week in February to commemorate it — timed to honor the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln, Feb. 12, and famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass, Feb. 14.

Happily, much has changed since then. Monuments stand to honor the accomplishments of black Americans, from the Buffalo Soldiers who served in segregated cavalry units after the Civil War, to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who became the first black American to be commemorated on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Movies celebrate the bravery of the Tuskegee Airmen, who persevered at a time when most whites didn’t believe black men were capable of becoming fighter pilots. There is even a Smithsonian-run National Museum of African-American History and Culture, designed to “educate generations to come,” under construction on the National Mall.

(Yes, there is irony in the notion of a separate black history museum. But founding director Lonnie Bunch has promised that it will allow visitors to delve “deeply into the African-American experience and understand that … it is a quintessentially American experience.”)

Many black Americans would argue that Black History Month is still necessary in a land where racism, though waning, continues to exert a peculiar power. There are its blatant manifestations, evident in police brutality and in prison populations. Then there are its more subtle signs, such as research into hiring practices that shows applicants with “black” names are less likely to get jobs, regardless of their stellar résumés.

Moreover, the dominant culture remains reluctant to acknowledge the essential Americanness of its black members. We remain exotic, the other, ethnics. A vocal minority of white citizens continues to insist that President Obama is illegitimate, a foreign-born usurper. The “girl next door” is blonde; the superhero is blue-eyed.

Unfortunately, though, Black History Month merely reinforces that fundamental bias. The one-month observation — ironically, the shortest month of the year — keeps our history away from mainstream history. Instead, it should be included in every history text, taught in every history class, commemorated in every history museum — from maritime to martial, from agricultural to architectural.

The story of America is accurately told only when the stories of black Americans are included in every month of the year.

Cynthia Tucker won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007. She can be reached at [email protected]

Photo: President Barack Obama speaks on the designation of the Pullman National Monument Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015 at Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy in Chicago. (Anthony Souffle/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

  • rogerogreen

    I agree with the premise that black history is American history, but disagree with the conclusion. Until we find out more about the hidden history of black people, beyond the peanut and one line in one MLK speech, the history of blacks in the US will invariably be unrepresented. Check out, e.g. Ditto, BTW, for women’s history in March, possibly even more so.

    • joe schmo

      So what are you suggesting?

  • Dominick Vila

    Black history month, Hispanic history month, the women’s march, Oktoberfest and all the other festivities that commemorate the traditions and culture of all the ethnic groups that compose the American society is a way to highlight the fabric that ties us all together. Contrary to all the efforts being made to divide us we are, and will remain, a nation of immigrants, former slaves, migrants, and the indigenous people who once welcomed our ancestors. The festivities we observe highlight a lot more than history, they are manifestations of our diversity, and evidence of who we are.

    • bikejedi

      So why then is there no White History month … Can anyone answer that without making excuses or spinning it to something else … and please don’t just say that everyday is white history month because that looks right past the fact that a lot of White people feel disrespected that our contributions are not recognized and aknowledged

      • Dominick Vila

        The official history books of the United States represent the achievements and troubles of white Americans. As for celebrations, consider St. Patrick’s Day (Irish), Columbus Day (Italian), Oktoberfest (German), Polish Festivals, etc. The problem is not that the contributions of white people are not acknowledged, the problem is that they don’t want those of anyone else recognized.

  • Allan Richardson

    Whenever I hear some smart-aleck right winger say “How come there’s no WHITE history month?” I think, is he/she (usually he) so stupid as not to realize that what Europeans and Americans call just plain “history” IS mostly “white history” as it has been edited? American history books never mention the black man who invented the gas mask, and in order to get people to listen to his sales pitch, HIRED a Native American to pretend to be the inventor, while the actual inventor pretended to be his assistant. They all mention that Washington, DC was built, but gloss over the fact that much of this town built as a shrine to freedom was built by slaves. They never mention the black inventor who found a way to make sugar white, or the black doctor who invented the blood typing we use today. The latter, by the way, was in an auto accident and COULD have been saved by his own invention, but was first taken to a “white only” hospital and turned away, and bled to death before the ambulance could get to the “colored” hospital. As a white boy growing up in the 1950s, I never heard about more than one or two black people making positive contributions to American history. I know now that there are so many that black activists do not really need to add made-up ones like Cleopatra (who was Greek, not Egyptian, the last of the Ptolemies, a royal family which had “racist” attitudes toward the native Egyptians they ruled).

    And “world” history as taught in the US covered the middle east and the Mediterranean basin up to the fall of Rome, but thereafter stayed in WESTERN Europe, ignoring what was going on east of the Adriatic except for brief mentions of Islam in connection with the Crusades (and presented the Christian invaders as the good guys). I was completely unaware of the rich history of the Byzantine Empire until, in my 40s, I read a book by Isaac Asimov (for a teenage audience!) titled “Byzantium: The Forgotten Empire.” I guess the “whiter” part of Europe was of more interest to American educators.

    So, I can understand why there needs to be a Black History Month to fill in the blanks, while the rest of the year is White History 11 Months. Likewise when right wingnuts say how come there’s no NAAWP, National Association for the Advancement of White People, the reason is that white Americans AS A “RACE” were and are ALREADY advanced (although some groups within the white population, of course, have had to fight to catch up with the wealthiest of their own “race”).

    • bikejedi

      When is White History month again ? Oh yeah that’s right there isn’t one . Please don’t make excuses and please don’t do spin … Why is there no White History month and would it really be that hard to do it ?

      • oldtack

        you are what you are aren’t you. All the rest of this forum know what that is so no further discussion is needed. Have a great day out there in space.

        • bikejedi

          So you don’t want to just say it do you ? You know why the Dems and the left don’t want to recognize White people and their contributions but you don’t want to admit it … They don’t want a White History month because it doesn’t fit their agenda to make White Liberals feel that they should suffer from some sort of White Guilt … Me I have nothing to feel guilty for and lots to feel proud about . I think my race should be recognized just like everyone else does but the left doesn’t agree because it doesn’t fit their agenda or narrative … Stay ignorant and indoctrinated my Liberal friends

          • oldtack

            Why should I? You just did..

          • bikejedi

            Wow thank you for the candid honesty … Dont usually get that here …

          • Independent1

            When you’re the world’s biggest scumbag and most worthless person, there aren’t too many more derogatory comments that those of us non RWNJs can make about someone like ‘YOU” are there!!!

          • joe schmo

            Well, we can honestly say….that no matter how badly they get treated, they have sold themselves out. It’s sort of a masochistic phenomenon.

          • bhaggen

            Thomas Sowell covers that “white guilt” thing in his book, “Black Rednecks & White Liberals” as slavery originated in Africa where they enslaved Eastern Europeans. That’s how the term “Slaves” originated Why weren’t we taught that slaves brought to America were actually sold, mostly to Dutch traders, by their own people & 20% of slave owners in America were actually black? Good thing the Germanics never colonized or got involved in the slave trade. It’s paid off in the long run. We don’t need a German History month, the U.S. would not have made it to the moon without German ingenuity.

          • bikejedi

            Totally agree . I too am an American of mostly German heritage and proud of it . I think it is for the very thing you stated that White peoples should be recognized for their achievements and contributions . I pose these questions to see if there is a single Liberal who will just admit that there is no White History month because it would hurt their promotion of White guilt . Also to ask WTF do Whites have to feel guilty about unless they are Democrats and are ashamed of their PARTY’s record of Slavery etc … Still that shouldn’t preclude the rest of us from A being proud of our race and B being recognized and celebrated .

      • JJSchwartz

        When I hear ‘black history month’ vs ‘white history month’ I think of divisiveness which there is way too much of in this country.

        • bikejedi

          Fair enoug but who Is saying one vs the other … f we truly dont want to be divisive and we want to he inclusive and fair to all shouldn’t Whites be recognized too? I mean it seems everyone else is

    • oldtack

      Somewhere in my Library I have a book I picked up at a garage sale titled “Lies My Teacher Told Me” and that book covers much of what you discussed. Our elite have the tendency to distort and twist history in favor of the pink/gray spooky race. They masquerade under the title of white race but the only truly white people I have seen are Albinos. No – our “white” people are more of a pink/gray spooky color. Go look in your mirror, white people.

  • bikejedi

    Wow …When is White History month again ? Oh yeah that’s right there isn’t one . Please don’t make excuses and please don’t do spin … Why is there no White History month and would it really be that hard to do it ?

    • johninPCFL

      White history is taught the other 11 months.

      • bikejedi

        I asked if anyone could answer that without spinning it or making excuses … You just cant bring yourself to state the obvious .. Dems don’t want that because they believe in White guilt and they feel it wouldn’t be politically correct . So ho teaches it ? Where when and how ? Is it the Liberal version where the only things Whites did was kill Indians and enslave Blacks .. Because the ONLY ones who were slave owners were Democrats ..And it isn’t about history it is about being acknowledged and respected so why is their a White History month ?

        • joe schmo

          Of course they can’t. They need the votes:)

    • joe schmo

      This type of attitude seems to be what’s en vogue at the moment. Gee, you’re right. Come to think of it there is no ‘White History Month,’ ‘Asian History Month,’ and, most importantly, ‘Native American History Month.’ I guess we can see what is important nowadays, Black history month and Cinco de Mayo. Everyone else is of no consequence. Don’t you think…..these people are a bit bias? I guess that never occurs to them……

  • Sterling Harris

    Republican rule has led to disaster. Fact. Demonstable fact. Undeniable

    the complaints about liberal and Democrat governing is supposition. There is no
    fact. Anything discussed about outcomes of a decade are only intellectual
    exercises with no fixed outcome when looked at fairly.Is
    it not simply fair, after you’ve lost an election, to let the American process
    work without interfering? Without obstructing? Liberals and Democrats let Bush
    run away with it knowing they’d get a change to peacefully, legally fix things
    when the time came. Is it not so much to expect, EXPECT, Republicans to offer
    the same consideration? But I guess I’m jsut a rreasonable man and expect tohers
    to be reasonable too. Such a fool.So,
    Republican conservatives hate me. Some of them want to hurt me. And they don’t
    want to play by the rules. Three valid areas of concern. Three pieces that don’t
    make sense in the America I grew up to know and believe in. MY America. A fair
    America. An America where the most important people in the country won’t play by
    the rules because they LOST AN ELECTION.This
    is wrong.

    can’t talk to these Republican conservatives once they’ve been indoctrinated.
    THey know everything. They know what you are, and they know they have the right
    way to do things, and your way is wrong. Their way has been shown to cause the
    destruction of our country yet they still think i ti sthe right way to go.

    is WRONG.

    defense and defense of the American way of life. Two things currently under
    threat by the right, by conservative Republicans. I’m not a holy man, I’m not
    Jesus. I react to these things with my own feelings, and the truth is I’ve been
    driven to hate Republicans.

    and Republicans reading this, if you’ve gotten this far meybe you can figure out
    what made me this way. But don’t ever look at someone like me and think we have
    no right for this feeling toward you. Don’t ever think you or your heroes are

    • joe schmo

      Seriously! Why don’t you tell me how when the Conservatives have rarely gotten their way since 2008?

      Your comments are ludicrous.

      • Independent1

        More of your asinine comments!! Conservative nutcases in legislators across the country and even in our national capital have worked tirelessly 24/7 to impart as much destruction on America the past 6 years as they possibly could – fortunately only some of it worked.

        Emperor McConnell used the fake filibuster more than 425 times to stymie virtually everything meaningful the Dems really wanted to do to help move America out of the Great Recession faster!!

        Darrell Issa ran one clown show after another supposedly investigating one fake scandal after another that his demented mind dreamed up; never proving anything while wasting almost 100 million taxpayer dollars!!

        14 treasonous RWNJ types met the night of Obama’s inauguration to work out just how they could spend every waking hour working to sabotage America’s economy and anything that may be positive that Obama may want to do; just to work at making him a one-term president; and even after that failed they just kept it up wasting millions more taxpayer dollars in the process!!

        Nitwit GOP legislators in one state after another deliberately enacted budget cuts and state services cuts during a recession to dumb down their economies (for the 1st time in modern history) in an effort to slowdown the recovery of our national economy in the hopes of helping make Obama a one-term president!!

        Nitwit GOP legislators in one state after another enacted voter suppression legislation which actually helped them win back Senate seats in 2014 despite the fact that the Dems received 20 million more votes in Senate contests than the GOP did!!

        Nitwit GOP legislators in one state after another used their religious bias to enacted one law after another that overroded women’s rights to controlling their own personal lifestyles and future objectives.

        Nitwit GOP legislators in one state after another used their religious biases to enacted one piece of legislation after another in an effort to force even more government control over peoples’ rights to live their lives as they want provided they were not committing criminal civil actions.

        Conservatives DID FAR MORE OVER THE PAST 6 YEARS THAN GET THEIR WAY!! They PULLED every dirty trick in the book to ususp authority they were never given because CONSERVATIVES WERE BY FAR THE MINORITY OF OPINION and what they were enacting WAS AGAINST THE PRIMARY WISHES OF THE AMERICAN ELECTORATE!!!

        • JJSchwartz

          The GOP would love nothing better than to set back America to the 1950’s or earlier. They are a party of greed and divisiveness. I’d venture to say that they have done incredible damage to this country beginning with the reign of Reagan.

          • Independent1

            I agree completely! Despite the damage that George Bush created during his disastrous 8 years in office, in my mind, Ronald Reagan was the worst president America ever had sit in the oval office. 30 years later, the damage Reagan created in destroying the very fabric of American life is still dogging our country and creating great divisiveness among not only our population, but also between many Americans and the peoples of other countries around the world. It’s the adversarial mindset that Reagan created in today’s Republicans that is creating, for example, the current rift between GOP members in Congress and a large portion of the people of Israel.

  • Whatmeworry

    When you ask students Black History month is a waste of 28 days. Most are happy that the weather limited the drudgery. Why bother they know that black history is a period of Trivia. And the time would be better spent learning about how much slavery benefited blacks

    • Whatmeworry

      When you ask students Black History month is a useful of 28 days. Most are happy that the weather limited the drudgery. Why bother they know that black history is a period of Trivia. And the time would be better spent learning about how much slavery benefited whites

    • Staci Kittern Disbrow

      You a liar. You don’t even know any black people. It’s only fair since white history month is the remaining 11 months of the year. You are racist child!

    • Daniel Max Ketter

      I think it should be mandatory that white people take a course of Black or Muslim Studies to get both sides. I’d do it, but i’m an old fart now and my teeth fall out, but younger ones should.

    • Whatmeworry

      Did you know that labor unions made the following 36 things possible? God bless our trade unions and their due paying members.

      Weekends without work
      All breaks at work, including your lunch breaks
      Paid vacation
      Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
      Sick leave
      Social Security
      Minimum wage
      Civil Rights Act/Title VII – prohibits employer discrimination
      8-hour work day
      Overtime pay
      Child labor laws
      Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)
      40-hour work week
      Workers’ compensation (workers’ comp)
      Unemployment insurance
      Workplace safety standards and regulations
      Employer health care insurance
      Collective bargaining rights for employees
      Wrongful termination laws
      Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)
      Whistleblower protection laws
      Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) – prohibits employers from using a lie detector test on an employee
      Veteran’s Employment and Training Services (VETS)
      Compensation increases and evaluations (i.e. raises)
      Sexual harassment laws
      Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
      Holiday pay
      Employer dental, life, and vision insurance
      Privacy rights
      Pregnancy and parental leave
      Military leave
      The right to strike
      Public education for children
      Equal Pay Acts of 1963 & 2011 – requires employers pay men and women equally for the same amount of work
      Laws ending sweatshops in the United States

      • Independent1

        Absolutely!! Great post! Had the labor movement never materialized back in the early 1900s, few if any companies would have ever voluntarily included any of those things in America’s work environment. Just look at what’s happened since Reagan’s busting of the Air Traffic Controllers Union has emboldened companies to start defying and kicking unions out of their businesses: Few companies today still have pension plans; few companies today still contribute to employees 401K plans; fewer and fewer companies are even providing their workers with healthcare; more and more companies are working in scheduling their employees so they can get around giving them almost any benefits, etc. etc. And that all comes from the decreasing influence of unions in America’s workplaces.

        In addition, Republicans keep enacting right-to-work laws in more states which even allows employers to get away with paying their workers less than minimum wage. If Republicans get their way, in another few years, America would be comprised of 1-5% rich people and 95% or less of America’s population working for poverty-level wages.