Debate over relevancy of Black History Month continues


Aaron Tam, Opinion Editor

There is no denying the contributions and sacrifices from Black people in creating America as it is today. But is Black History Month necessary?

Black History Month, founded by Historian Carter G. Woodson of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, came as a response to his opinion on the lack of African representation in society. At the start of this tradition in 1926, Woodson stated, “If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”

Frequently mentioned in support of Black History Month is the lack of African history in the United States history curriculum.

“I could see that [Black history] is definitely something that should be brought up,” junior Maya Price said. “Slavery is a topic taught heavily in school, but African civilizations that have thrived [are] rarely discussed.”

Others argue that since African Americans had to endure many hardships as slaves during the development of America, then Blacks should have a month dedicated to them as gratitude for their work.

“What happened in the past when people were slaves deserves acknowledgment for what they have done and endured,” freshmen Elijah Lee said.

But doesn’t the concept of a month specifically designated to a specific race only contribute to a need for attention or the further polarization of society?

“I don’t want a Black History Month,” African-American actor Morgan Freeman said in response to Black History Month during a December 2005 interview with Mike Wallace of CBS. “Black history is American history.”

And there is merit in Freeman’s words. The achievements of African Americans have long since engrained themselves into American history. One cannot talk about American history without talking about African American history. Contributions made by African Americans have long since etched their mark onto the backbone of America may it be in the medical field, civil rights, military or politics.

But the emphasis placed on Black History Month compared to months dedicated to Irish history or Chinese history is extraordinarily high. Not to belittle the struggles Blacks have faced during slavery or Jim Crow Laws, but the Irish and Chinese also faced a harsh history in America yet the inherent need to declare a history month dedicated to their race alone is little to none.

The Irish would become the majority in what would be known as the “wage slave” during the Industrial Revolution. Facing gruesome working conditions, bad wages, and long hours, the Irish were one of the forces that helped power America’s factories behind the scenes.

The Chinese were also faced with similar harsh working conditions especially in the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, where the Irish, Chinese, and explosives worked side by side. Later, the Chinese were targeted racially by the Chinese Exclusion Act, an act that restricted Chinese immigration into America.

The Irish, the Chinese, and the numerous other groups discriminated against in America haven’t found a strong need to create a history month designated to their race, so why do Blacks need one? Is the need to reflect each individual race’s history necessary when each race has long since integrated itself into American history? No, there is no Black history, no Chinese history, nor Irish history, but simply American history.