Dare I say Black History Month is not what it used to be? Excuse me, I meant to say National African American History Month.
Just like I meant to say National Asian-Pacific Month, National Hispanic Heritage Month, Latino Heritage Month, National American Indian Heritage Month, International Cultural Awareness Month, National Women’s History Month, Women of Achievement Month, Queer Awareness Month, National Disability Employment Awareness Month and my personal favorite, Self-Improvement Month.
We’re going to need a bigger calendar.
I don’t mean to diminish the importance of building a progressive society. Still, I worry the following assertion could be misconstrued as insensitive, when the very claim would only prove my point.
Our generation is subject to an uncomfortable irony. By fervently rejecting bias we are consumed by it. We are so politically correct it’s actually offensive.
In February 1976, 50 years after the first Negro History Week, President Gerald Ford and the Library of Congress honored Dr. Carter G. Woodson by declaring African American History Month a national holiday.
Dr. Woodson, the father of Black History and the son of former slaves and a Harvard graduate, taught himself how to read and write by the age of 20. He devoted his life to exposing the distorted, neglected and suppressed history of African Americans.
Dr. Woodson hoped Negro History Week would “outlive its usefulness,” but also intended for its elimination once black history integrated with American history. Now the two are synonymous, as acknowledged by Oscar winner Morgan Freeman, who believes the celebration does not belong in the 21st century.
“I’m going to stop calling you a white man, and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man,” Freeman said on a “60 Minutes” interview. Is it really that simple?
Perhaps he’s naïve. But in a country where 45 states treat childhood bullying as a hate crime, we are already assured intolerance will not be tolerated. Or maybe he’s too correct. Maybe it’s not enough to model compassion, teach pluralism or concentrate on our shared humanity. Maybe we’ll always fixate on distinctions of black and white.
Black History Month used to protect against real discrimination and real lynching. Now it’s just the remnants of America’s hidden racism, manifested in hyper-inclusiveness and liberal hysteria. In the name of civil rights, we’ve chosen to dwell on the past instead of placing our efforts where injustice prevails. Our attention is divided, with each month as equal and offsetting as the next.
According to Paul Krugman’s recent New York Times column “Moochers Against Welfare,” over 40 percent of white middle-class conservatives receiving any combination of social security, unemployment benefits or Medicare say they have not used a government program.
What explains this cognitive dissonance? It seems clear they feel entitled to the same government programs that are widely perceived as social welfare for minorities.
This is why diversity means nothing without political substance. Black History Month doesn’t even remotely address these kinds of issues.
There’s no such thing as a purely egalitarian society. We can treat the symptoms with education, cultural awareness and more education, but we can’t replace human nature. Thankfully, we can override our evolutionary past with basic conscious efforts. When we meet new people, we slowly let go of stereotypes.
Unfortunately, most relationships take place over an indefinite period of time. Until then, we might as well admit that everyone’s a little bit racist … next September, during Self-Improvement Month.