This February, Cal Poly along with many other colleges and institutions around the United States will begin celebrating Black History Month. Black History Month traces its origins to historian Carter G. Woodson, who began a “Negro History Week,” with the work of President Gerald Ford in 1976. When Black History Month began, blacks were barely mentioned in history books. It was important as it is now to make it known the impact blacks have had on American history. The ultimate goal of this would be to unite black history with American history. Now to be clear, I have no disrespect for historian Carter G. Woodson, Gerald Ford or African Americans, but the time has come to end Black History Month.
One of the greatest things about living in America is that regardless of our creed, color, race or religion we are all Americans and all equals. Black history, including slavery, oppression and segregation, are integral parts of American history as a whole. This same principle applies to other groups in American history who faced different, but harmful prejudices. This applies to Native Americans, Asian Americans, Latino Americans and every other group that has a commemorative month. It is a diversity of history and culture that gives America its strength and makes America what it is today. Actor Morgan Freeman was particularly critical of Black History Month during an interview with Mike Wallace during the TV show “60 Minutes” calling it “ridiculous” and said, “You’re going to relegate my history to a month? … I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.”
When a group decides to separate itself and ask for special treatment for injustices, real or imagined, it hurts us all. If there is to be true equality in America, one of the main messages of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and major theme of Black History Month, Black History Month has got to go. If we want real equality I see two ways: We could give every single group in America a special day or month, so that every group gets equal coverage or we could do away with months that focus on specific groups. The first option would be equal in a sense, although it doesn’t seem to be very American.
America has come a long way in its history. The struggle for equality (equality of opportunity and equality under the law, not to be mistaken for an equality of results) has been difficult for many groups. However, true equality comes when we are each judged by our personal merit as individuals. Instead of pointing out that this white guy Abraham Lincoln was a great president, or this Jewish guy Albert Einstein was a great scientist or this black guy Thurgood Marshall was a great Supreme Court justice, why don’t we say Abraham Lincoln was a great president, Albert Einstein was a great scientist and Thurgood Marshall was a great Supreme Court justice? I wouldn’t want to be remembered solely by what group I belonged to, nor would anyone else.
When Black History Month began, blacks were seldom mentioned in our history books or classes, but times have changed. Just look at Cal Poly’s history department – we have courses that focus on American cultures, on struggles for equality, even several classes that are specific to African American history. When Black History Month began, its goal was to incorporate blacks into the overall picture of American history. I think that this goal has been accomplished. I believe that if we want to take that final step toward equality Black History Month has to end.
Simply put, black history like Irish history, Italian history, Asian American history, Latino history, Indian history, Jewish history, Mormon history or, any history you can come up with, is all American history. I don’t think there should be a Black History Month just as much as I don’t think there should be a month set aside for any other group. Instead, our schools should be teaching history, black history included and completely incorporated, every single day of the year.
Brian Eller is a materials engineering sophomore and Mustang Daily columnist.