It’s February which means it is Black History Month. This month is a great opportunity to teach students about the contributions of Black people to society. Though there are a lot of people who aren’t fans of the month, most schools will, at minimum, offer some token gesture. Many schools will actually teach Black History this month, but good schools were already doing it.
I don’t often say this in mixed company because I don’t want it to be misinterpreted:
Black History Month is a crutch for inequitable schools. It’s a time of the year where schools are basically shamed into doing what they should be doing year long. This is not an anti Black history month take. I’m pro teaching our history, but I don’t feel the need to pretend like the month is panacea for the actual problem of how schools teach history. Most schools view Black history as an off-shoot of “regular” history almost like a sub-genre. They don’t often serve it with the main course. Black history is treated like a dessert, and a seasonal one at that. As great as dessert is you don’t need it. That is not the message we should be trying to send.
If you are not interweaving Black history through your daily curriculum, then you are actively sending a message to students that Black people did not play an important role in shaping the world we live in today. This is categorically false.
It is important to call out the fact that lots of different types of schools are guilty of this. There are a lot of urban educators reading this sitting on their high horse ready to point the finger at rural or sub-urban schools. However, I have seen plenty of inner-city schools fall victim to this as well. This includes schools with majority Black populations that even have Black leaders. Often, they are even worse because they are blind to their gaps in this area.
They might let the kids wear red, black, and green for a day.
They might have Civil Rights leaders posted all over the wall.
They might display kente cloth everywhere.
Yet when you walk into a classroom, their curriculum has the same problems as any other school.
Some schools have sought to rectify this problem by creating Black history classes. That is well and good, but it doesn’t actually solve the fundamental problem which is realizing that “Black” history is American history, and that the traditional history we learn didn’t happen in the absence of Black people.
Alas, this is why we need the month. Schools are not going to change their curriculum to reflect these truths overnight, but people would do well to realize that Black History month is not a replacement for sound historical pedagogy.