About three years ago, I wrote a commentary about Black History Month, also referred to as African-American History Month. As I go back and look at it, I’ve realized it was horribly written, but I was so proud of it and myself.
I believe it was my first commentary as well as one of the first times I had ever spoken about my distaste for the term history in the designation of the observance.
In short, I explained how the term history, defined as a study of past events, left me longing for something I not only wanted but needed as a black American: a heritage.
A heritage is an inheritance and is something to be passed down through generations to keep its significance alive, and I tried to explain why it was better to not leave our heritage in the past to be studied for a month as history.
Unfortunately, that was one of the few times I had actually spoken about it until about 10 months ago. I found out I was having a daughter with an American woman who is of Mexican, German and Irish descent.
As we planned for our little one, we talked about the things we wanted to share with her from the many heritages she could claim, including her African-American heritage. I want her to feel the pride I feel in recognizing the many accomplishments black Americans have achieved through overcoming many hardships in a country in which they once weren’t even considered human beings.
So, I’ve continued to talk about black Americans’ history and the claim to our heritage. I’ve talked about the good, the bad, the ugly and the hopeful.
But I’m not the only one that has been talking. The U.S. is in the midst of very high racial tensions. Many people have been discussing the reasoning behind the tensions, but it feels like more people are avoiding the conversation, and I had been one of them.
I assumed I was just avoiding pointless arguments, but I realized I had effectively been allowing any heritage I could claim as a black American to fade into obscurity. By refusing to talk about the bad and the ugly of our history with those who may not want to talk about it, I also refused to talk about the good that should become and is the foundation of the hopeful heritage we should want to pass along to future generations.
I’ve accepted that I will get into arguments from time to time. However, arguments can sometimes lead to positive discussions, and Black History Month is a great way to facilitate positive discussion.
Black History Month started out as Negro History Week, which emphasized teaching the history of black Americans, and teaching is one of the best ways to start a discussion.
So as we observe Black History Month, let’s remember the good, the bad and the ugly as we move toward a hopeful future which includes a full African-American heritage not only for my child but for all children to be proud of.
Whatever your feelings are, let’s talk about it.