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10 Responses

  1. Jemima
    Jemima February 4, 2009 at 12:27 pm |

    Yeah, and as Tom Lehrer finished his song National Brotherhood Week:

    “It’s only for a week, so have no fear.
    Be grateful that it doesn’t last all year!”

    Pointing to the fact that, though people might treat a chosen group or a topic respectively and attentively for a day/week/month they’ll go right back to the hating they do for the rest of the year once it’s over.

    A day/week/month of awareness and/or observation won’t do much good when 11 out of 12 months or more time is spent in status quo. What is needed is constant awareness and the constant prodding that activists, bloggers etc stand for.

  2. shah8
    shah8 February 4, 2009 at 1:32 pm |

    Black History Month annoys me too. Some people really like to believe that the US was always a white country.

    Common history is white, the self-assigned color of the victors of history, but then, well, it isn’t even the half of it. Gotta go well out of your way into historical ghettos to get most of it.

  3. NancyP
    NancyP February 4, 2009 at 9:42 pm |

    On the other hand, BHM is not a bad way to highlight resources for adult learning. Classic general reading lists (top 10 classic fiction, top 10 essay collections, top 10 classic histories and biographies/autobiographies, top 10 poems, top 10 plays every educated American should read), specialized reading lists, “best of the last year” lists (not necessary to make these lists Jan. 1 to Dec. 31), best new blogs, etc. BHM may provide some useful opportunities to run series, eg, the local public library system is running several documentaries on black filmmakers this month. BHM is a way to promote material that can be used for the rest of the year. Plus, I have made it my practice to read at least one solid history in February, which means that I start looking at what is available and what I have missed.

    I agree that black, women’s, labor, immigrants’, etc history should be integrated into formal curricula, and in the best of all possible worlds this would occur. Until then, adults (and children) can use some prodding and some guidance for independent learning.

    (am I a book review addict, or what?)

  4. Rhiannon
    Rhiannon February 5, 2009 at 1:58 pm |

    I’ve never been able to verbalize what it was that bothered me about “Black History Month”. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Black history shouldn’t be singled out – it should be integrated. It’s not a separate piece of history held in a vacuum of space and time, it IS history – ugh, again… I don’t feel I can verbalize my quandaries with this as well as you already have. So thank you.

  5. J
    J February 5, 2009 at 5:37 pm |

    I agree with a lot of what Renee is saying, but I’m still not ready to get on the BHM hate wagon (for lack of a better phrase). It’s true that we should do a better job of acknowledging the history of blacks and other marginalized groups, but I don’t see why that is a reason to not have black history month. Just because we have breast cancer awareness month doesn’t mean that we don’t fight the disease year round.
    My main holdup with BHM is that having a separate month may reinforce the notion that racism is an issue for black people, and not our country as a whole.

    Still, I have fond memories of celebrating BHM as a kid, and I certainly learned about the contributions of black women just as much as I learned about men. BHM was when I first learned about Mary Macleod Bethune, Shirley Chisholm, Madame CJ Walker, Marian Anderson, and lots of others. Should I have been learning these things year round? Absolutely, but I don’t see what is so wrong about taking additional time to highlight those contributions.

  6. Kristin
    Kristin February 5, 2009 at 8:05 pm |

    Great post, Renee.

  7. denelian
    denelian February 5, 2009 at 8:39 pm |

    i have always wondered why BHm wasn’t in the same month as MLK day.

    what always bugged me is that Black history just isn’t THERE in school books. what we see in school is white people fighting white people, with black people as a pretext. outside of Harriet Tubman (is that the correct spelling?) and some Civil Rights movement leaders, EVERTHING is through the lens of white people.

    its not that white history is not important. its not even that the lens of white isn’t important. but i think all the OTHER viewpoints and such should be told TOO.

    i mean… as an example, i am Cherokee. so in 5th grade we were studying the Civil War and slavery and such, and i mention something about how horrible slavery was and how i was ashamed that some of my ancestors owned slaves. and THE TEACHER just stared at me. A HISTORY TEACHER didn’t know that the Cherokee owned black slaves too! (to give what little credit is due, to my knowledge black slaves were treated as indentured servents and were always emancipated and almost always adopted into the tribe, if they weren’t married into the tribe. but they STILL fuckined OWNED SLAVES). why didn’t she know this simple fact? because to her, only white people ever had enough money or influence to own slaves. i swear that she probably never thought about all the other cultures that owned slaves, and if she were confronted with histories showing white people owned as slaves (generally by other white people, mostly Romans owning slaves or in Northern Europe slaves won in war from other tribes) she would pass out. we had a huge fight in class that day, she sent me to the principle’s office for “lying” in class, i was very lucky that the principle knew enough history to know that the Cherokee DID in fact own slaves, so i didn’t get in any more trouble.

    so… what is it? only white people have history?

  8. shah8
    shah8 February 6, 2009 at 2:23 am |

    denelian, without black people, there would *still* be a Cherokee Nation as well as some of the other Creek nations closer to the Mississippi.

    The reason why black history month is so pernicious is that it puts black history at a remove to american history, which leads to a very distorted, datum based history without a comprehensible gestalt that moves events. To put it bluntly, without black and chinese people, much of this country’s interior could never have been seized from the aboriginals.

  9. UnFit
    UnFit February 6, 2009 at 5:15 pm |

    Great post, Renee.

    I don’t have any experience with Black History Month, but living in Germany as a half-Asian, I get endlessly annoyed at all the fake “diversity” crap.

  10. digg » Blog Archive » Holding Out Hopes, Hesitations, for Black Herstory Month

    […] of Womanist Musings has a guest post up on Feministe titled Black History Month in which she explains why she has deliberately not done a "celebration post" for Black […]

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