Seeds: This year marks the 40th anniversary of Black History Month. The origins of this tribute to black Americans can be traced back to historian Carter G. Woodson’s creation of “Negro History Week” in 1915. It was not until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s that the week grew into a full month and was popularized on many college campuses. Eventually, President Gerald Ford officially designated the month of February as Black History Month.
Core: The debate over whether or not Black History Month should exist is not a new one, but the conversation has recently been reignited. This renewal of discussion is due mainly to two factors: the lack of diversity in nominations for acting categories at the Oscars despite strong performances from multiple people of color and comments made by Stacey Dash, a black actress, in which she stated that there should not be a Black History Month because black people are “Americans, period.” This sentiment is shared with a large number of people, some of whom support their claims by citing their “color blindness” when it comes to race. These people do not think that black culture should be separated from white culture with Black History Month without the existence of a “White History Month” to complement it on the grounds that black culture shouldn’t be celebrated more than its white counterpart if “all men are created equal.”
Skin: News media has swarmed all over this debate, recycling the same arguments again and again. No matter the television channel, the discussion follows this format to some capacity: One of the debaters will argue that the existence of Black History Month is simply hypocritical and racist due to the fact that there is no such this as a “White History Month.” The moderator will then nod and pretend that this point is in any way new, interesting, or valid, and ask for the opinion of the second debater, who will then remind everyone that since the nationwide school curriculum already focuses primarily on European or white history, there is no real need for a month to be dedicated to it. The moderator will then thank both contributors for their time and cut to commercial. At this point, the conversation has been reheated so many times that it can no longer stand to be called a “hot topic.”
Leaves: Despite many calls for its end, Black History Month is and will continue to be a part of the American calendar year. In response to backlash over a lack of diversity at the Oscars, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has vowed to include more people of color in their membership ranks in hopes that it will help to include movies and actors that seem to be overlooked when it comes to nominations. In the future, we can hope to see more movies featuring people of color at the Oscars.
Food For Thought: What do you think about Black History Month? Do you think it is necessary or hypocritical? Do you think there needs to be more diversity in Oscar nominations? Tell us what you think.
Think we missed something? Tell us in the comments.