America Doesn’t Need a Black History Month

America Doesn’t Need a Black History Month

© David Burton 2022

Politicizing Sports

     Well here we are at February 2022 and we are about to celebrate another irrelevant and meaningless made-up holiday – Black History Month. Why in heaven’s name is there such a thing as Black History month? In the first place, it should not be called Black History Month! If anything, it should be called Black-American History Month, because the intention is to bring to America’s attention the history of Blacks in America. It was never intended to focus our attention on the more significant history of Blacks in Africa or elsewhere around the world.

     Why does the history of Blacks in America deserve to be marked by a special month? Are American-Blacks more important than Chinese Americans or Japanese Americans or Native Americans? Shouldn’t Jewish-Americans be given a Jewish-American History month, or Irish Americans an Irish-American History month, or Italian Americans an Italian-American History month or Hispanic Americans an Hispanic-American History month? What makes Black-American History so special that it deserves to have a month dedicated to it while all other racial, ethnic and national group histories are not so noted? Every individual group that makes up these United States has its own unique history – not just Black-Americans. Should they all be ignored while Black-Americans received special attention? Is such special attention even justified? What exactly are those momentous historical events in Black-American history that justify all of America designating an entire month to take note of those events?

     The simple act of identifying one minority group as special and giving to it honors and/or benefits not accorded to other minority groups or to all other Americans sets that group up for the disrespect and animosity of those other American who feel slighted and offended by this special attention. Indeed, such action encourages increased racism and discrimination. Other Americans ask: “Why them – why not me?”

     “Don’t know much about history . . .” goes the famous Simon and Garfunkle song. It’s an apt description of most of American students’ knowledge of history these days. And yet while America’s students don’t know even the basic history of their own country or of the world as a whole, we celebrate Black History Month.

     “A 2014 report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that an abysmal 18 percent of American high school kids were proficient in US history. . .
      - - -
     “The {truth too often is that} instructors balk when it comes to history: They don’t want to offend anyone. ‘The more vocal and involved the parents are, the more likely the teacher will feel uncomfortable to teach certain things or say something that might create a problem.’ . . .
     “{A teacher} cited issues around Thanksgiving, like teaching the story of pilgrims and the Native Americans breaking bread together as one that teachers might sideline for fear of parents complaining. Instead of addressing sticky subjects, we skip them altogether.
     “As colleges around the country see protests to remove Thomas Jefferson’s statues from their campuses, it’s becoming the norm to erase the parts of history that we find uncomfortable. It’s not difficult to teach children that the pilgrims or Thomas Jefferson were imperfect yet still responsible for so much that is good in America.
     “Jay Leno used to do a segment on his show called ‘JayWalking,’ where he’d come up to people on the street and ask them what should’ve been easy historical questions. That their responses were funny and cringeworthy enough to get them on the show tells you how well it went.
     “Leno never asked the year the Magna Carta was published or when North Dakota became a state. He would ask what country we fought in the Revolutionary War, to name the current vice president or how many stars are on the American flag. And yet adults had no idea.
     “We talk often about how fractured our country has become. That our division increases while school kids are taught less and less about our shared history should come as no surprise.” [Emphasis mine] (Ref. 1)

     Should the story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, be taught in our schools? Yes, but as part of modern American history and not merely as part of Black History Month. The struggle for equality in American society is part of the larger story of the fight for equal rights for all minorities – women, native Americans, Mexican-Americans, Hispanics, Japanese, Chinese, Catholics, Jews, Irish, Italians, Southeast Asians, Muslims and others.

     Paying lip service to America’s Blacks by naming a winter month Black History Month does more harm than good. It instills resentment in those who don’t receive similar attention. It subjugates those more important issues behind the appearance of doing something meaningful to achieve racial equality while, in fact, it actually does nothing of significance. Rather than focusing on what divides us into majorities and minorities, it behooves America to concentrate on what can better unite us. One way is for us all to study American and world history and to really learn what has gone wrong and what still needs to be done to defeat the forces of bigotry, racism and discrimination that persist today in these United States of America.

     “Martin Luther King Jr. was among these, ironically, as he dreamed of a day when people would ‘not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.’ If we’re teaching about black Americans, or white Americans, or Hispanic Americans, or Asian Americans, we’re doing the exact opposite of what the great reverend preached - we’re accentuating the differences between us, not erasing them.
     “We tell children that they should not judge people by their color, then confuse them by insisting that they study a person because that person is black. Famous Amos was included in the assignment! Now, I love cookies as much as the next guy, but having kids read about Famous Amos simply because he was a successful black American is nothing short of ludicrous. Many of these same children have never heard of Gandhi, Churchill or even Ulysses S. Grant. And yet we're teaching them about Famous Amos before we teach them about George C. Marshall. This is not only diversity on the cheap, but it's bad educational policy, too.
     “Furthermore, having Black History Month is an insult to black Americans. It is implicitly segregationist. We're designating a month (and, as Chris Rock once noted, the shortest one), to celebrate the contributions of black Americans. [Emphasis mine]
     “Here's an idea: How about we celebrate all people who contributed to society (regardless of sex, color or religion) throughout the year? Do we have to wait for Chicano History Month to celebrate the life of Cesar Chavez? Jewish History Month to celebrate Albert Einstein? We don't need to wait for Catholic History Month to learn about John F. Kennedy, do we? Maybe Amelia Earhart will have to wait for Women's History Month.
     “We don't need a month to tell us that there have been many great black Americans throughout our history: Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Louis Armstrong, Jackie Robinson. Their accomplishments should doubtlessly be taught in our schools, but within the context of the times in which they lived and the struggles they faced. It makes little sense to dust them off for one month, give a cursory treatment to their work and then shove them back into the dustbin of history.
     “If we truly wish to live in a color-blind society, we have to leave off our segregationist tendencies. That's not to say that we should ignore racial strife. But we as a society - and our educators especially - are not helping matters with the cursory treatment of the black experience that occurs every February. Black History Month may well have had a purpose in previous decades, but today its time has clearly passed. So leave February alone and celebrate great Americans for who they are, not what they look like.” (Ref. 2)

     The U.S. has been officially recognizing Black History Month for 40 years, but it remains a contentious subject among both black and white Americans. Still, the argument persists that it should be abolished because race-specific events are counter to American values. Arguably, the debate around Black History Month really began in earnest several years ago when Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman indignantly told “60 Minutes” co-host Mike Wallace, “I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.”
     For some white Americans, Black History Month is yet another example of special-interest pandering. On the other hand, for some African-Americans there is bitterness that Black History Month has in their minds become a commercialized bit of national tokenism. Celebrated figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks are trotted out amid feel-good history lessons for the duration of a month, then returned to mothballs once March rolls around. It doesn’t help the perception of cultural ghettoization that February is the shortest month of the year or typically the coldest.[3]

     Do only African-Americans care about there being a Black History Month? If so, then there is no point in observing Black History Month.[4] If so, we are faced with the question: should America do away with Black History Month?

     YES - Let’s get rid of Black History Month! By getting rid of Black History Month, we will no longer allow the rest of them (whoever “them” happen to be) to relegate Black-American history to just 28 days out of every 365. By getting rid of Black History Month, it will be everyone’s responsibility to fill all 365 days with a shared Black-American history. This inclusive American history will include the misplaced, the displaced, the oppressed, the aggrieved and the ignored. It will be a first step in removing the “us versus them” mentality that gets us to choose sides. This can reinforce the message that WE ARE ONE PEOPLE and WE ARE THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.[3]



  1. Why schools have stopped teaching American history, Karol Markowicz, New York Post, 22 January 2017.
  2. Black History Month: Is it time to get rid of this celebration?, Ross Rosenfeld, NY Daily News, 4 February, 2011.
  3. Let’s Get Rid of Black History Month, Joel Christian Gill, HUFFPOST, 12 April 2015.
  4. The Black History Month Debate is Back, Adam Howard, NBC News, 22 January 2016.

  10 February 2022 {Article 514; Suggestions?_67}    
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