Am I a traitor for disliking the month that celebrates us?
As a black woman, I'm delighted to see my history celebrated and acknowledged. But as a mom, it continues to be one heck of a frustrating month. In fact, I've grown to hate Black History Month, because inevitably one of my children will come home with an absolutely incorrect "fact" imparted by a well-meaning-but-not-too-thoroughly-prepared teacher.
For example, one year, my daughter, Kayla, came home after seeing the Black History Month play at her mostly white private school. I asked her what she had learned from the play. Her response? "That slaves stole things, and they didn't know how to read or write." HUH?!
My correction? "Slaves weren't allowed to read or write; they would have been killed for it." Big difference!
Attention teachers, principals and all educators in any teaching role imaginable: "Black history" is about more than just slavery. So if you are going to teach black history, please don't just talk about the parts that you feel most guilty about, the parts that come readily to mind or the parts that you yourself were taught in school decades ago.
Now, I fully understand that Black History Month was scheduled to take place in February because that was the birth month of both Abraham Lincoln (who freed the slaves) and Frederick Douglass (a leading abolitionist who helped slaves escape via the "Underground Railroad").
Consider discussing people like Madam C.J. Walker, the first black millionaire. Or Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American on the Supreme Court. Or Ralph Bunche, the first African- American to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Or the time when Harlem became the hotbed of black intellectualism, art, music and culture.
Better yet, take a look at our rich African heritage. Any good online encyclopedia will tell you that the historical roots of black slaves in the United States can be traced back to the ancient kingdoms of Mali, Ghana and Songhai in Central and West Africa. These kingdoms were rich in art, literature and music -- a historical reality that was purposely suppressed to support the pro-slavery moral position that was necessary in order to convince the world that blacks were less than human. This is a truth that must be taught.
Please do not create more work for me by making me correct your history mistakes. (Quite frankly, I have enough to do.) I've spent years -- and earned multiple degrees -- studying your [white] history, so please take a few moments to get black history correct.
I should not have to send my children to the Benjamin Banneker/Malcolm X/Betty Shabazz/Booker T. Washington School for them to have an accurate Black History Month experience. (I won't even begin to expound on why African-American history isn't taught more all year 'round.)
I'm hoping that every year more and more teachers will get the point: Our history as black Americans is as integral to this country as the history of any other group. Maybe one year soon, I can scratch "correct Black-History-Month errors" off my February to-do list.
|Kimberly Seals Allers is an award-winning business journalist and founder and editor-in-chief of MochaManual.com, a weekly online magazine for moms of color. She is the author of "The Mocha Manual to a Fabulous Pregnancy" and "The Mocha Manual to Turning Your Passion into Profit." Kimberly is a divorcing mother of two and lives on Long Island, NY.|