Cleveland Journal

Is Black History Month still relevant?

Amanda Nguyen, Tran Lam, and Zareya Flowers

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Actress Stacey Dash was blasted via social media after the celebrity weighed in on the controversy surrounding the lack of diversity in the Academy Awards nominations. She called for an end to Black Entertainment Television (BET) and Black History Month as well.

In an interview with host Steve Doocy on “Fox and Friends,” Dash made it clear she did not support BET.

“Either we want segregation or integration,” she said. “If we don’t want segregation, then we need to get rid of channels like BET and the BET Awards and the Image Awards, where you’re only awarded if you’re black. If it were the other way around, we would be up in arms; it’s a double standard.”

Not only does Dash, who is a multi-racial mix of Bajan, African-American and Mexican, claim that there shouldn’t be a Black History Month, but she continued to say “We’re Americans. Period. That’s it.”

Dash’s sentiments are not unheard of. The question of why there’s a Black History Month is a debate that rears its head every February. Many students wonder why there is a surge of school assemblies, marches and other tributes during the shortest month of the year. A number of other questions are quick to follow, including: “Why isn’t there an Asian or Latino History Month?” Some believe that other racial groups that have been oppressed throughout American history have been left out of the picture. The existence of Black History Month has thus been brought into question.

The relevance of Black History Month is a multifaceted topic. The overall impression is that there is a level of apathy when it comes to the month’s celebrations, specifically from anyone who isn’t African American. Since elementary school, students have learned about the so-called founders of black history like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman and Malcolm X – but then what? Are we really celebrating Black History Month or is it a watered down interpretation? Most of black history – the real black history that includes the slave trade, segregation and lynching – are usually left out.

Even as students coming from a diverse school like Cleveland, we can honestly say that, in the end, it doesn’t feel like Black History Month. So do students really care?

Regardless of your answer, we believe that you should.

Current events have accentuated the need to reiterate the relevance of black lives.

“It’s important for us to understand where we come from, especially in a time when we’re being dehumanized,” said senior and Black Student Union member Leija Farr.

Farr sees Black History Month as an opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of blacks to America.

“We were slaves here. We contributed to this society, whether we wanted to be here or not. If we contributed to society, we should definitely be treated as a part of its history.”

Farr, among others, believe that Black History Month is as necessary as it is empowering. She does, however, emphasize the need for a wider spectrum of black history and black leaders to be acknowledged – not just Martin Luther King.

There is also a notable population within the black community that argues against the relevance of Black History Month – but not out of apathy. Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman thinks Black History Month is “ridiculous.”

“You’re going to relegate my history to a month?” Freeman asked during an interview on “60 Minutes.” “I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.”

This is a pivotal element to the debate. If people were truly conscious of black history, perhaps we wouldn’t need a month to celebrate it.

Sophomore Phuong Nguyen disagrees. He believes that students should know as much as they can about black history, even if it’s just one month.

“I feel glad that people say that black history is every day, but they turn ignorant when they back it up with ‘We shouldn’t have Black History Month,’” he said. “Having Black History Month allows us to remember what has happened and how we need to strive away from the oppressive cruelty that happened in the past.”

For non-blacks, the solution to celebrating the history of other racial groups isn’t necessarily to eliminate Black History Month.

“There should be a month for every race in my opinion,” junior Anh Dao said. “Every race has been through difficult times and we should show the importance of each race by celebrating it.”

Unbeknownst to some, there are also months designated for celebrating Asian American, Latino and Native American heritages as well – May, September to October and November respectively. However, despite having nationally observed holidays to honor these different heritages, the effectiveness of said months in celebrating and raising awareness of America’s cultural history is questionable.

“In October, it’s Latino History Month, but people don’t speak up and say ‘Oh, this month my culture does this and what we do to celebrate it is this,’” said junior Diana Hernandez. “People just don’t know. If people knew, everyone would want to join in and learn more about each other’s cultures.”

But African-American history is crucially different from the rest in one aspect: it is taught in schools. The fact that black history is incorporated into our education seems to take the spotlight off other cultures. While some may say that it doesn’t feel like Black History Month, the same is even truer for other heritage months.

We believe that the debate expands much further than the relevance – or irrelevance – of having a designated month to celebrate your culture’s history. Rather, it’s a matter of developing a holistic awareness of all cultures in the community. Regardless of what month it is, we should all be constantly making an effort to be well informed of both cultural issues and contributions of America’s diverse racial groups, both historically and currently. While we may all be American, we can’t forget to embrace the diversity amongst us.

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