I was talking with Cleverboots yesterday. She had a kid with her. Now, Cleverboots says what’s on her mind. But she is also a good mother, and a responsible woman. As a compromise, she was mouthing some of the words she said. Thus, when she said,
“She was wearing a (pearl thong)”
she didn’t actually voice the words “pearl thong,” but merely mimed them. After a while I became fascinated by which words she chose not to put sound to.
“She doesn’t really do anything (vulgar).”
“Well, and you know we’re (Jewish).”
To me, “vulgar” isn’t really a vulgar word. Neither is “Jewish.”
And then she said, “What do you think about (Black History) Month?”
This is a good question. Even if you call it “African-American History Month,” it is still a source of ambivalence for me.
On the one hand, it is often used as an excuse to ignore the contributions of African-Americans for the rest of the year. You get up in February and mention Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and George Washington Carver, and then forget the presence of African-Americans in our history for the rest of the year. It is the same with Women’s History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Native American Heritage Month, and Asian-American Heritage month.
I was telling Cleverboots about a time I was doing a history presentation in a local school. I had talked about the African Americans in our region during the pioneer days.
The kids told me that they knew about that. I pointed to the pictures on the walls — pictures they had drawn of pioneers. “How come they’re all white?” I asked.
The kids had not noticed. Since it was February, they had me in there reminding them. Otherwise, it just didn’t come up.
It would be better always to remember the diversity of people, wouldn’t it?
However, without the special months, it is very likely that the groups honored by those months would be ignored entirely. None of the others is as widely observed as African-American History Month is. And I expect that, if asked, most schoolkids in our area could not come up with any information on either Hispanic or Asian-American heritage.
As for women’s history, it is not quite as bad as when I was a child and the history books talked about “the pioneers and their wives,” but it’s not that much better. In most history classes — and even more so with the time constraints created by No Child Left Behind — U.S. History is a history of European-American guys.
I am putting out the bulletin board sets and books for African-American History Month. I just wish it weren’t necessary.