Friday, February 10, 2006

Black History Month: How recognized is it?

As we all know, February is Black History Month. During this month, we look at different aspects of black history in order to better understand the background of an entire racial group in our country. As a history teacher, I can say that this is a good thing up to a point. It is important to know about other cultures. It is important to understand their backgrounds. But is it important to force teacher to take course and be familiarized in the backgrounds of each culture?

In New Jersey, Assemblyman William Payne wants to push legislation for all new teachers in his state to be familiarized in black history. He was also responsible for passing in the state a law mandating teachers to teach black history. In addition to this law, the Amistad Commission was created to make sure that black history is being taught. The problem though New Jersey schools are having is that the teachers are not really teaching black history.

So why is it this is happening? Well, for starters, the teachers do have a say in what they are teaching. They need to make sure the students get the standard education they supposed to get while at the same time being prepared for college. In addition to this, some school must deal with the Standards of Learning test. For parents of children in public schools, these three words are rather dreaded. The reason for this is because schools will stop teaching their regular curriculum in order to go ahead and teach to a test that students must take if they hope to go ahead and graduate to the next level of education.

While I do not contend the issue of learning about other cultures, I do have issue with the fact that Assemblyman Payne wants new teachers to be trained in black history. The demands of a teacher are very high to begin with and to add on extra burdens can be difficult.

Fact of the Matter

The fact of the matter on this issue is this, what defines black history? If it is solely being looked at from the perspective from the time black have been in this country since Jamestown, then we must ask what aspects are to be examined. For instance, are we only looking at the evils of slavery, oppression of blacks, and the civil rights movement. If this is the case, then we are seemingly forgetting quiet a bit of black history, culture, and society.

Do people who want black history taught so much want everyone to learn about Denmark Vessey or Nat Turner, who killed an infant in the middle of the night after slaughtering the baby’s family in their sleep? Do they want to talk about the militantism of Malcolm X? Do they want the radicalism of the Black Panthers to be reviewed? How about the affairs Martin Luther King Jr. had? Do these people want schools to look at the fact, yes the FACT, that black racism in this country is actually worse than white racism.

In black culture, not only do some group of blacks dislike whites, but also people of their own skin color. What is wrong with men like Wayne Brady, Will Smith, and Tiger Woods? Nothing. However, some blacks see them as “Uncle Toms” who sold out their race. Is there a problem with making money? Is there a problem with speaking proper English?

In flipping through the channels, I came across BET (Black Entertainment) and they were showing music videos. In the video, there was the singer swiping, SWIPING, a credit card through the cheek buttocks of a woman. Is this entertainment? NO! If anything, this is filth.

Is it no small wonder that both Bill Cosby and Morgan Freeman have both said the Black community needs to get their acts together? Bill Cosby had said at an NAACP meeting that there is a problem in the Black community when parents of children are willing to spend more money on shoes than Hooked on Phonics.

Consider this fact, if Hispanics and Asians have been able to succeed in this country and climb up the social ladder, why can’t Blacks? If the white people always want to oppress the minorities, then why do those two groups seem to excel?

Booker T. Washington, born a slave, became an educator and founded Tuskegee Institute. He believed that is was necessary to educate the former slaves and their children in order to help them advance in society. When the children have the education and can become valuable to the economy as industrial workers, even if it is the menial jobs, acceptance is made.

We must remember that respect is earned, not just handed out. When it comes to Black History Month, this is something that is part of the history of America as a whole, not to be singled out, not to have its own special examination, but to be seen in the context in which it occurred so that the future generations of this country can understand where it is that we came from and where we are going to in the future.

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