Has “Black History Month” outlived its usefulness?
When Carter G. Woodson first called for a Negro History Week, the Whited States of America was committed to the supremacy of the Northern European pale skin; Latinos and Asians were deniable minorities. Too many Africans had been kidnapped to ignore, however. But Whites were still in denial about how much of the nation’s wealth was appropriated from these Blacks’ labor; so attention to their achievements was necessary. As Woodson’s friend WEB DuBois had put it, Blacks had the experience, the psychological problem, of knowing what it was like “to be a problem.”
Now, however, it’s clear no particular group of people, but rather America’s attitude towards “race”—is the problem: the constructed distinction between different shades of skin. The problem is “white”, “brown”, “black” “red”, “yellow”, and the exclusions and outright crimes used to justify differential treatment, both past and present. We cannot retreat to a wishful, but nonexistent, colorblindness; instead, we must pay the cultural price we incurred in imposing a white power structure, with Other-skinned subordination, on a already inhabited land. We have met the race problem and it is us. We have to study race here, and not just for one month. So, has “Black History Month” outlived its usefulness? Yes, but not in the way the Supreme Court would have you believe: it’s time for “race”-awareness year round. Until we get senior to this artificial concept of race and undo its continuing, historically-established damages.