Black History is everyone’s history. This fact weighs on my heart as we close Black History Month. Although mainly, Black Americans scurry around like fire ants to build a mound of historical facts for the public and children to learn in a (short) month, our best endeavors will never be enough to encompass all the richness of our heritage and contributions to make America the great (yet flawed) country it is today.
Where would we start, 1619 or 1776? Who would be included and not allowed, and when would this rich history end? The last decade or the last millennium?
With all the questions, angst, and political nuance presently in culture, I think a better classification would be to intermingle Black History with American and World historical pedagogy and leave the racial categories and theories for electives in colleges and universities. You may not agree, but at least our younger children could get back to learning the fundamentals.
By “our,” I do mean American children who were far too entangled in adult conflicts about whether to wear a mask or not, whether they are safe in the front yard and the schoolyard, and whether they are oppressed or free. And now, someone thinks it is critical to add to their tiny plates the considerations of whether God made them a boy, a girl, or an other. No wonder children are having a mental health crisis. For the student’s sake, I sincerely hope they will get back to being too busy playing with friends and doing homework to worry about any of the above.
As a Gen X-er, I must state how blessed I feel to have missed the Civil Rights era and this new movement of divisive ideologies. When I went to school, it was to get an education. Period. Nobody at school had to teach me about my gender or my race, and the only drills we had were “fire” and “Hurricane.” Gratefully, neither happened while at school.
My focus was on getting to the next grade and graduating high school and college so I could get out of my parent’s home and get a job that I figured would turn into a career. While adulting, I expected to meet my spouse, buy a home, perhaps have children, and live out the American dream. Isn’t that why so many immigrants flock to the United States every month—for a chance at the freedom I had and have, privileges I inherited from my Black and White, Jew and Christian ancestors?
These freedoms were made possible to me largely because I took advantage of the opportunity to learn skills that others would pay me for. Education and Skills. Both are available to all children in America, and with an education and skills, we build character and rise to levels we never dreamed possible, regardless of color or social identity.
Many of my childhood heroes developed character and skills through education. General Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice shattered glass ceilings during my youth. General Powell was the first Black Secretary of State. Rice followed in his footsteps, becoming the 66th Secretary of State and the first Black woman to hold that position, making her the highest-ranking woman in United States history. Powell and Rice were the two people I hoped would eventually run for the office of President of the United States. While Powell is sadly no longer with us (deceased 2021), there is still hope for Rice.
An actual presidential candidate, Ben Carson, was once a name prominently written on the book (Gifted Hands) my mother was reading one week–she used to read books quickly. As a youngster, I was fascinated to learn that Carson was the first doctor to separate conjoined twins. His story did not make me want to become a physician, but I inherently perceived that all things were possible. Carson had many other “firsts,” too. And like Rice, he was not relegated to “the first Black” because he was the “first” American ever.
While in DC, I took a few pictures of their contributions to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture (NMAAHC), along with those heroes from the Civil Rights movement. Like the month of February, there was not enough time to embrace it fully.
To my astonishment, the museum had nothing on Associate Justice Clarence Thomas. Georgia-born, Gullah-speaking, Thomas is the second Black and longest-serving member of the U.S. Supreme Court. He holds a significant place in history for rising to the highest court in the land. So I was disappointed by Thomas’ absence, but I hope that will change in the future.
None of these trailblazers could reach the pinnacles of success without a good education in the area of their purpose. Whether you agree with Booker T. Washington or W.E.B. Dubois about how to progress in America, proper education is key. And reading, writing, and arithmetic remain fundamental!
In closing, I hope that most Americans will be proponents of academic calendars that teach about prominent Black Americans in Social Studies, and American and World History year-round. Our children need facts and inspiration. And may we also become lifelong learners. Who knows, when we are long gone, we may be named as a better part of this world’s history.
Peace and love and thoughtfulness, ❤️🤎 Really,