Angry White Person: “Why isn’t there a White History Month???”
Me: “Because that’s ‘history class’.”
If you ask those who believe we live in a post-racial world, things look a little like this:
Racism is over. Everyone’s equal. We know the evils that men do and teach our children not to become them. We’re in a respect-first culture with everybody dedicated to the cause—segregation, ostracisation and blaxploitation are things of the past. Blackface is extinct, Black people can be anything, and we have the same fighting chance that everybody does, so the day for a Black History Month’s long behind us.
Which would be nice if it were the case, but if you’ve chatted with a Black person for five minutes or more, you’ll know that the reality we see paints a very different picture.
The Bother with Black History Month
Now—Black History Month is a tricky subject for a group of people whose histories come from wildly different directions. Black people who’ve been here for centuries, the descendants of slaves both freed and not. Those who made their way here as legal discrimination slowly dissolved in the decades following World War II. As metropolitan Canada became more diverse, our Black identity did, too, and now we find ourselves with a history that’s not so easy to distil down to just one thing.
But despite the fluidity found in Black culture and how much the very idea of Blackness can differ from person to person, there’s a shared narrative that we’re trying to share with everyone else…. if only they’re willing to hear it.
Experiences show us otherwise, though, with teenagers making racist jokes just outside of our nation’s capital and schools trying to replace Black History Month with “Diversity Month” as if all members of the BIPOC community are the same. (BIPOC = Black/Indigenous/People of Colour.)
As a Black person, it can often feel like your history and your very identity is regularly stepped on, and Black History Month is that one month in the year where everyone finally stops to listen, so we need to make the biggest impact we can.
But it’s not that simple.
It’s Black History Month, but WHICH Blacks and Whose HISTORY?
As I said before, with a community made up of over two hundred different ethnic and cultural origins, things aren’t cut and dry. And just as our Blackness shouldn’t be just one thing for those from the outside looking in, it also means we’re not always on the same page within the community, either.
The sentiment of Black History Month is nice, but some feel it can be lacking in execution, with some alternative approaches to our twenty-five-year-old tradition that might make it better.
So—which way do we go? Do we stick with the Black History Month we already know and work to make it better, or do we fight for an approach that could transform it into something else entirely?
That, my friends, is what we’re looking to figure out in Live from the 3.5 #2: Do We Even Need a Black History Month?