Opinion

EDITORIAL A month for segregation

Welcome to Black History Month. Have you enjoyed it? What does it mean to you? We’ve seen dance and music shows on the Rock and the UC Patio, activists tabling in the Breezeway and documentaries hosted by James Earl Jones or Denzel Washington on the History Channel.
Americans have recognized black history annually since 1926, when Dr. Carter G. Woodson first founded “Negro History Week” in February, which in 1976 came to be known as “Black History Month,” to bring national attention to the contributions of black people throughout American history. Woodson strategically placed Negro History Week so that it coincided with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Now that it’s a whole month long, it also coincides with Oprah Winfrey’s national television debut in 1986, which was, interestingly enough, listed on The Association for the Study of Afro-American History and Life’s website as an important historical event.
Before the establishment of Black History Month, the field was barely studied or even recognized in history books. Historians largely ignored the Black American population, and when Black history was documented, it was generally in ways that reflected the inferior social position they were assigned at the time.
The establishment of Black History Month was obviously necessary earlier in the last century. The study of American History was racially biased toward the White, upper-class majority. However, the texts have changed, and are coming to incorporate the true stories of racism, inequality, inhumanity, and injustice that make up American History.
Proponents of a segregated Black History Month often ignore the more important task of explaining why certain social conditions evolved and why they continue. They intend those brief sketches of prominent historical black figures to serve as quick emotionally satisfying rebuttals to centuries of bad history that presented Americans with African ancestors in a negative light. Their motives are good. Still, the results often are harmful, because they trivialize the group’s role in American history.
Is the segregation of the appreciation of cultural diversity beneficial to the destruction of cultural and social biases which have been present in societies since the dawn of history? The separation of cultures, expressed through such events as Black History Month or Hispanic Heritage Month, perpetuates the distinctions that we’ve been trying to rid ourselves of, culturally, socially, and psychologically, since we learned a long time ago that it wasn’t cool to distinguish others on a superficial level. Just like a dad feels left out of a child’s love on Mother’s day, any event or period which focuses on and praises one culture inherently discriminates against all the rest, and may deter us from our long-sought goal of just loving everyone for who they are as individuals, for their differences, oddities, and histories which they can’t help but have.
We humans are all by-products of the same ancestors and despite our myriad of different ancestries and origins, we are only different because we choose to be different from each other. Individual differences may arise from race, sex, and heritage, but they are expressed by and only by the individual.
Perhaps we could benefit from a unified Civil Rights Month, so that everyone could recognize the struggles different classes have overcome in America, while conceding that the progress made was done mostly because of the conjoined efforts of people of all races with a social conscience.
Where’s the solution? It’s too cliche to say that everyday should be a celebration of cultural diversity because it already is. From the diversity of foods, music, skin color, language, dress, and filial obligations, is born the American culture.

February 11, 2003

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The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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