If You’re Teaching Black History Month This Way, Please Stop

Jose Vilson Education, Jose


Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson with wife Rachel, Hall of Fame

First, I’d like to acknowledge that, on the chance that you’re actually celebrating Black History Month, congrats. You haven’t let the Common Core madness deter you from celebrating culture, whether it’s your own or someone else’s.  The decorations will spring up. Common faces like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Benjamin Banneker, and Will Smith will border the walls of a few classrooms, and probably a few hallways. There might be a fact-a-day in the announcements, and one in 400 schools might have someone who knows the Black National Anthem. (I know you’re mumbling it after the fourth line.)

But, has it ever occurred to you that, as well-intentioned as this might be, we ought to take the next step and celebrate Black history on March 1st as well?

We already know that Black History Month wasn’t meant to stay as Black History Month. Carter G. Woodson intended for this celebration to happen until it clicked for curriculum creators to speak to the story of the American Negro as part of the American history, and not just in platitudes and the Civil Rights movement.

People often argue that, when we stop celebrating Black History Month, people will start celebrating year-round, and there’s no way I’ll ever argue that. In fact, we should start celebrating all cultures and colors year-round so the need for specialized months for our marginalized groups would look antiquated. In other words, put John Steinbeck and Malcolm X quotes together, and celebrate The Beatles and the Temptations simultaneously. We can celebrate Michelle Obama as part of the lineage with Barbara Bush and Eleanor Roosevelt.

To Kill a Mockingbird in English class is a start, and so is having a Black president. Yet, we have so much pushback, I always wonder if we’ll ever not need a Black History Month. The “civil rights issue of our time” has a severe lack of sincere educators willing to tackle on the issue of diversity without trying to let go of their privilege, too. With the decline of black teachers happening all over the country (Chicago a prime example), it’s time for our White brethren to teach with compassion and understand on the issue of race if they aren’t already.

So jump into Black History Month, and get your feet wet with some of this history. Do your research a bit and drop the dime in a child’s ear, because that might inspire them to aspire. But once February 28th hits, leave those chapters open and bookmark those links.

The kids still need to know that there were, are, and will continue to be people who look just like them that positively impacted the lives of others, role models for the lack thereof in present times.

Jose, because this is to the memory of Hadiya Pendleton …