February [Part 2]
“Black History Month”
The sounds of jazz music, the photos of Teenie Harris, the ideologies of Cornel West and Martin Luther King, “ordinary” women like Rosa Parks, the stories of those who stood up by sitting down… when it really mattered and cost them something.
I have some questions. (Are you surprised? My life is one big series of questions…)
Why does it exist? Why choose one minority over others? “We don’t have Native American history month…”
Personally I find this the world’s most hyperbolic cop-out. Want to have a Native American history month? Do something about it. Men and women have spent their energies to establish this month as a recognized practice. Stop complaining and comparing; make something happen. Don’t critique the value of an institution we do have while you do nothing to bring about reform. Limitations and flaws should only spur us on to make changes that consider other minorities. Adopt an expansionist, constructive view, not an exclusive attitude.
What’s the purpose? Is it really unifying? Because I’ve seen plenty of people use Black History month as yet another reason to be racist - to throw their race and culture in your face. A social good isn’t necessarily enacted to society’s benefit; it can be divisive too.
Ignorance is dangerous. A conscious effort to remain uninformed in intolerable. Simply being naive is not a simple matter - it is deadly to culture, interpersonal relationships and the individual himself.
“We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.” -MLK, Jr.
We only come to recognize our culture as it truly is when we interact with another one. Engaging with difference enables us to learn about ourselves in a deeply meaningful way.
In grade school classrooms, individuals who fought with their very lives for justice are honored. Justice not just as a metaphorical, theoretical, morally philosophical term; justice as it intersects with how you shop at the grocery stores, the movies you watch, your salary, the cross-grain of daily experience.
On college campuses, well, I’m no expert. Its easy to see how we honor Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King in a classroom in 5th grade. But on a campus that is predominantly upper middle class white kids except for the basketball players… Its tough. The questions are there. Its just not as easy to pay attention to them.
Education comes through dialogue.
I’ll leave you to ponder.