I have observed that Black History Month, much like MLK Day, usually gives a politically correct, sanitized version of history. It gives people the opportunity to tell not all historical accounts, but just the ones that look good on paper or in a headline. This type of thinking is not unique to the way our culture views black history, but all history. Our culture has a habit of ignoring the struggles of history and instead draws focus on false heroes and empty accomplishments of a certain era, ex. Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, (which didn’t end slavery by the way)
When we fail to tell all the truths of history, it paves the way for people to deny reality. If people had a better understanding of the history of black people in the US they would be much more likely to admit certain disadvantages that exist in our society today. We have so many people who know so little about history, yet they see evidence of a history of discrimination everyday, they just don’t realize it. People fail to see how modern things like the “war on drugs”, and insufficient school funding descend from the vagrancy laws of the early 1900’s, which in turn come from slavery. People fail to see how the evils of the past have transformed into modern day social ills. It’s easy for people to criticize black people and tell them to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” when all they see is the tip of the iceberg. When the extent of peoples knowledge is that slavery was bad but Lincoln ended it then after awhile MLK came along and fought for civil rights, it leads people to believe that the fight for political suffrage is over and that no one should ever complain about discrimination.
For these reasons it is vital that people understand the real history of race in the US. We won’t be able to change the status quo of discrimination if we don’t even admit that it exists in the first place.