Why is black history relegated only to the teaching of the struggle of a minority race to assimilate into white culture? By this I mean why we are not educated on the histories of the functioning economies of Africa before imperialism, Congolese Embassy’s in Italy, the impact of the Moors on Western enterprise, African regiments in both World Wars, and to say ‘etc.’ is unforgivable but required. The argument I intend to put across is that the ‘black history’ we are exposed to in the west is only history of black oppression.
When we talk about BHM we think slavery, Martin Luther King, Civil Rights, Mandela or maybe even Malcolm X… What’s wrong with this? This black history only refers to a portion of black history, and not a history of culture or accomplishment. It is actually more white history, the history of imperialism and moral neglect. To clear any misinterpretation I entirely understand and respect the importance, as well as the necessity of this education, yet most black and white children, and people in fact, thinks that this is the only black history that exists. We grew up through an educational system that masks parts of black history, such as the Haitian Revolution, because it is black accomplishment without the aid of Western culture. Subsequently my problem with BHM is that it seems a patronising way of Western Culture apologising for injustices through a partially constructed form of remembrance. This next statement is influenced by the words of Irwin in the play by Alan Bennett, ‘History boys’: – what is the best way of desensitising us from history? Commemorating it. When we think of the millions that died in the First World War, the numbers of dead eventually give less of an impact… Similarly to the slave trade and other discriminations, it appears in a way we are being desensitised from oppression that so many people experienced only a century ago, through remembrance. ‘Sorry for all that, we are changed now’.
I am far from a black supremacist nor am I going out of my way to form a guilt trip, but it feels like black history has been made into a memorial, delegated to a single month of the year, given a monument. We only think of black history when the media prompts us to, and then what we are told is only that of imperial discrimination. It’s almost as if black history is intentionally suggesting that ‘black history’ is a thing of the past… That Black history no longer exists in Western culture. Has black history finished, is it not being created every day? My interpretation is that BHM almost infers that assimilation of black and white culture in the west is complete. Though racism has shrunk, to suggest that it has been eradicated is ridiculous. Even now I can recognise that I am probing too deeply into BHM, which in truth has positive intentions. Yet I have always read BHM as to be saying ‘look at all this that has happened, and look now’, like it’s a viewing of ‘progression’ until present. Referring back to my previous point, BHM does not recognise nor celebrate the proud moments of black history, such as the Egyptians, Moors, Haitian Revolution, the list goes on. Is it because this history is independent of the interference of settlers? I study history and I completely recognise that the most distinctive events in history are those that are of trauma, I further realise that this shouldn’t be the situation. This can be compared to ‘Jewish History Month’, we automatically think ‘holocaust’, not Jewish history before the Roman Diaspora or all the aspects of Jewish history that are empowering. BHM is an incomplete and a manipulated education of black oppression. Furthermore the term ‘Whiggish History’ in the simplest definition is a history of ‘progression’. In my opinion BHM has been sculpted around this Whiggish interpretation so that to give a false sense of accomplishment to black people. We look into the events that BHM allows us to view and we say ‘hey, haven’t we done well. I would have hated to live back then, thank god for MLK!’ Black History is not what BHM tells us it is, it is merely the history that places us into a numb bubble of ignorance.
The black history of the last 500 years has been largely orientated around the oppression of African peoples by Western imperialism, but this is only from a Western point of view. In the case of black history in America, this shouldn’t be known as ‘black history’, it should be known as ‘American History’. The creation of the super power we recognise today was formed largely on the reliance on the slave trade. Although the black presence in this genesis was not by choice, it was undeniable. Subsequently we often arrogantly forget that the United States are relatively new, since the expansionist British Empire essentially signed an eviction notice to Native people of America. From this poor summarisation of the creation of the United States I intend to put forward the statement that Black history in America isn’t black history, it is American History. Any attempt to make out that American history is separated between white and black is untrue. BHM tries to create a segregated reflection, which I believe is derived from a deeply rooted view that the United States was created by a select group of people. Imperial history has somewhat brainwashed many from all over the world that the United States was created by the successful and independent colonisation of white people, rather than the result of the work of many socio-economic groups and races.
On a note of personal clarification, I do not want to exert an argument that Black History Month is an intentionally negative event. I do not intend to suggest that recognition of black culture in Western society does not deserve and require acknowledgment, but I am highlighting both the patronising and partially constructed history that is covered. As I have previously mentioned, a lot of the Black History that is discussed during BHM is not just black history, but American History. Subsequently if we are truly to study black history we must look at the important events in the past century, but we must also appreciate and celebrate the history prior to Imperialism. We must also look at the events that happened during imperialism that have been largely overshadowed by significant events in Western nations. We should not be arrogant enough to purely reflect upon the black history that was created by imperial encroachments, but we should revel eras of prosperity and independence; as we should celebrate assimilation and ‘progression’ towards multi-racial nations. I don’t agree with ‘Black History Month’ as I don’t believe that a vast and incredible history should be relegated to a single month of a year. I also believe that everyone should study and be taught the fantastic and significant moments in our past that should be relevant to all, no matter what race or nationality.