For years, I held an ambivalent view of Black History Month. On the one hand, it was and is a source of pride in that we have a month where there are things that most of the USA discovers about people of African descent with which they had been previously unfamiliar. One discovers information about inventors, politicians, activists, cultural icons, etc.

On the other hand, Black History Month ends at the termination of February and so much returns to “normal.” Thus, the importance of integrating - no pun intended - the history of people of African descent into the entirety of history.

Black History Month, however, has become more important than ever in light of the attacks on African American history and on discussions regarding race.  As part of the counter-attack against the Black Lives Movement eruptions of 2020, the political Right successfully challenged the teaching (and discussion) of the history of the United States.  They did it in the form of attacking discussions regarding race and racism that, allegedly, make white people feel guilty and otherwise bad about themselves.  Using that formula, one cannot teach anything about atrocities that have been committed over time because someone will inevitably feel “bad.”  Thus, no teaching of the Armenian genocide because someone of Turkish descent may feel bad. No teaching of the Holocaust because someone of German descent will feel bad. Certainly, no teaching of the genocide committed against Native Americans, since people of European descent will feel horrible.  In other words, no teaching of history.

This creates a major dilemma. The attack on so-called critical race theory has been an attack not only on African American history but an attack on any history that addresses oppression, oppressive systems, and atrocities. It means that history must be sanitized - for whites - while for the rest of us…we cease to exist except in some sort of historical twilight zone.

During Black History Month we can challenge this faux teaching of history and raise important facts regarding the Black experience. Nevertheless, the existence of the various laws and regulations against the teaching of matters of race and racism, directly and indirectly, call into question the factual matter that is actually being taught. Did, in 1963, Martin Luther King simply say that we should all be judged by the content of our character, or did King give a blistering attack on white supremacy? For most of the political Right, the actual content of King’s speech would be an anathema. During Black History Month, for much of the United States, we can call the situation as it was.

Yet Black History Month is no more a permanent refuge from irrationalism and demagoguery than many of the world’s islands are a refuge in the face of global warming, soon to be submerged by the seas. Without an ideological and political counterattack on the forces who wish to convert history into myth, populations that have experienced racist and national oppression will be cut off from their histories, and, for that matter, Euro-Americans will never understand how they became “white people” in the first place, and the consequences of that development for us all.

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BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member and Columnist, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is the executive editor of globalafricanworker.com, former president of TransAfrica Forum, and a lifetime trade unionist. He is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, and the author of The Man Who Changed Colors, “They’re Bankrupting Us” - And Twenty Other Myths about Unions and the novel The Man Who Fell From the Sky. He is also the co-author of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice, which examines the crisis of organized labor in the USA. Mr. Fletcher is also Co-editor of "Claim No Easy Victories: The Legacy of Amilcar Cabral". Other Bill Fletcher, Jr. writing can be found at billfletcherjr.com. Contact Mr. Fletcher and BC.

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