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Est. April 5, 2002
February 22, 2018 - Issue 730

Black History Month
The Distinct, Complex and Vibrant
History of Black People

By Dr. Elwood Watson, PhD
"Black History Month explores and exposes
the ample diversity and plethora of talent
that has always existed in the Black community.
This diverse exposure dispels the largely
held myth by many (particularly White America)
that Black America is a one note monolith."

Another year, another February and we are deep into another Black History Month. As has pretty much always been the case, various institutions and individuals from all walks of life have taken it upon themselves to celebrate the numerous milestones and accomplishments of people of African descent. There was no reason to believe that 2018 would be any different and it has not. Indeed, it appears to be business as usual as millions of Americans and a few others throughout the world celebrate the history of Black Americans.

For 28 days (some years 29), we will be introduced to and in some cases, reminded of the innumerable contributions (and rightly so) that Black people have made to this nation. Corporations will make bold and brazen acknowledgments to various Black entertainers, athletes, politicians, educators, ministers, historical figures and significant facts as they relate to Black America. Black churches and other religious organizations will sponsor dinners (mostly soul food) that represent a culinary smorgasbord undeniably definitive of recipes that originated in the African diaspora. Numerous educational institutions from elementary schools to colleges and universities will sponsor a multitude of cultural programs,showcase films and documentaries, bring in various speakers, musicians poets and an assorted array of activists of varied stripes as they make every effort to salute Black history. Again, all is good.

The truth is that Black people have a distinct, complex and vibrant history. This can be said of all ethnic and religious groups. That being said, the history of Black Americans in this nation is vastly distinct from other ethnic groups due to the religious, economic, social, psychological and educational experiences that have been visited and inflicted upon us. By exploring and acknowledging Black History Month, the nation is paying homage to a group of men and women who are strong, resilient, innovative, forgiving (in some cases, arguably too forgiving), distinctive and have contributed immensely to the vitality and success of America. A nation where certain people never intended for us obtain full citizenship or be fully included within the full panorama of American culture..

In a nation (and sad to say, in some other countries), where Black people are often perennially depicted and showcased as pimps, thugs, prostitutes, derelicts, baby commas, callous welfare recipients, oversexed species and overall largely retrograde menaces to society, (although there has been notable improvement, particularly in regards to commercials over the past few years, ) Black History Month provides a crucial and vital ingredient of facts, statistics and notable, distinguished accomplishments. Triumphs that are far too often obscured and dismissed from the public discussion. An opiate of sorts to counter the often negative narratives that are often ascribed to the Black community.

To be fair, racism has always been a part of this nation. It is deeply ingrained in the fabric of our culture and is American as apple pie. Rather, what we are seeing now, is a case of blatant, undisguised bigotry, the type that many White people had to keep disguised and leashed since the 1950s or at least since the early 1960s, now being unleashed and allowed to unapologetically permeate itself in various sectors of our society in many cases, without consequences.

Black History Month explores and exposes the ample diversity and plethora of talent that has always existed in the Black community. This diverse exposure dispels the largely held myth by many (particularly White America) that Black America is a one note monolith.

Our current political and cultural climate virtually necessitates the need for such reinforcement.

Anyone who has a pulse and is socially and culturally woke is astute to the current challenges we face in this nation. We have a brazenly racially divisive president who routinely stokes the flames of racial animosity and division and adamantly embraces White supremacists. The time is ripe for a reinforcement of Black excellence to combat the naysayers of such racial resistance.

Since the time of this nation's inception, we as Black Americans have had to wage a historical long battle fighting to obtain rights that were supposed to be guaranteed by our constitution that most other groups have taken for granted. The mountains and minefields that our ancestors had to climb, face head on and in many cases, triumphed against, despite enduring seemingly unrelenting adversity is a testament to their impervious strength and spirit. We are enduring similar battles today in the 21st century. Indeed, the fact is that being Black in America often means waging an ongoing battle. It means dealing with a history and people that has been defined by blood, sweat, tears, pain, occasional dashed dreams, setbacks and periodic victories.

As I see it, Black history is not some entity that should be confined to one specific month of the year. Such an attitude is disrespectful and patronizing. Rather, the history of Black people (as is the case with the history of other ethnic groups) is one that deserved our full and undivided attention. Food for thought. Guest Commentator, Dr. Elwood Watson, PhD is Professor of History, African American Studies and Gender Studies at East Tennessee State University. He is the co-author of Violence Against Black Bodies: An Intersectional Analysis of How Black Lives Continue to Matter (New Critical Viewpoints on Society Series). Contact Dr.Watson.




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