Why We Need Black History Month In The First Place

Jose Vilson Education, Jose

Recently, PBS Newshour asked for my thoughts on Black History Month. After noticing that even some people of color railed against the idea of such a month, I decided to write a primer on why we needed them and why this matters for our students, all of them:

I wanted to give the students a 10-minute lecture on the fact that groups used to lynch people of color for public display, that Emmett Till was around their age when he was savagely beaten and killed for supposedly flirting with a white women, that at their age, I saw Rodney King get beaten on video for trivial matters, and that Amadou Diallo, the man who police officers shot at 41 times after mistaking a wallet for a gun, worked in a grocery store I frequented in high school.

Instead, I said that I too knew how they felt, and I too saw what they saw, and I too wanted justice for the murders of young men and women of color. I also mentioned how their feelings might be further complicated by having relatives in the police and armed forces. I don’t believe they are bad people, but, as with anything, sometimes the jobs we do puts us at odds with the people we want to be. That includes teachers. The conversation showed me why highlighting their voices mattered more than my own.

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