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COLUMN: Why we still need Black History Month

Tuesday, February 2, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 9:48 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Same question, different year.

Yes, there is still a need for Black History Month. There is an even greater need for American history to be taught in every school, every day. Of course American history should tell the story of all immigrants' experience in the New World and the contributions of each in making the country what it is today. When that becomes a reality, of course, there will be no further need for special months for any group. Unfortunately, for too many individuals and groups, American history remains the story of only one group’s experience in founding the country.

There is nothing to me, quite as irritating as these talk-show pundits who declare and insist that only white people are responsible for maintaining the country’s future. Nevermind, that people of color have served in every conflict, including the Revolutionary War. Who was the first to fall in the Boston Massacre? A run-away slave from Framingham by the name of Crispus Attucks is the answer to that question. Attucks was a seaman who had escaped slavery 20 years earlier.

Other men of color such as Peter Salem, also of Framingham and Salem Poor served at places like the Battle of Lexington and Concord and the Battle of Bunker Hill. In the War for Independence, 5,000 free and slave men served under Gen. George Washington. The first woman to enroll in the armed services was a woman of color, Deborah Sampson Gannett. Gannett disguised herself as a man and served in the 4th Massachusetts Regiment. She received an award for female heroism from her state.

If American history, including the history of women and minorities, was commonly taught by public education systems, such damaging information spouted by these seasoned racists would lose their audiences fast, because most Americans would know their history. As a consequence, knowledge and information concerning individuals other than white males has to be taught separately or it will be lost from the main.

Personally, I would prefer to have my history taught all in one piece. But, I am also aware that many textbook editors and publishers are males and they often view history differently from other people. History to them is too often measured by armed conflict. Breaking down offensive social barriers is sometimes not seen by them as important signs of progress.

Unfortunately, too much of our so-called history these days is taught by television pundits whose only interest is in spreading the propaganda of their political party. They know only too well that education, for the most part, is a dead issue in America. It’s common knowledge that Americans typically are too busy making money to read books or attend history and civics classes. And so, the political celebrities are allowed to make trouble and widen the separation between races and sexes.

Now that the majority is losing the population race, many of them fear that their status will change. They fear the loss of control and don’t know where they will end up in the struggle for power. I don’t think this is a great concern for most minorities since being in control of the power structure has never been a stated goal for them. Most of us, I think, are happy to be a part of this country of immigrants. The melting of many cultures into the same pot, we think, allows us a special place in the family of man. We just simply do not believe that all human potential is vested in any single culture.

Some of us sincerely hope to see the day when individual cultural groups disappear into the whole and everybody can celebrate every culture. But we have to face the fact that education or lack thereof is the culprit in this story. The free, public education system that promised to make us intellectual giants has failed us miserably. It has done so because citizens have become so socially irresponsible that they have allowed our schools, colleges and universities to fail to achieve educational excellence.

And so, once more, we the people have failed to meet the goals of the founding fathers. They trusted us and we let them down. The television pundits sell out the promise almost on an hourly basis and we the people sit there and allow them to do it. And hey, that’s our air they are using to poison the minds of our children and pacify the warped thinking of the uneducated.

And so if only once a year we get the opportunity to set the record straight, then we are obligated to do so. When ‘we the people’ decide they want real American history taught in our schools, many of us will be the first to stand up and applaud.

Until then, we will be doing the best we can.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at nolen@iland.net.


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