Column: Don’t categorize history

Published 11:21 pm Tuesday, February 3, 2009

As every student knows, February is Black History Month. It is a time when students learn more about noteworthy African-Americans and the contributions they have made.

I understand the purpose behind Black History Month: to help promote the things that people of color have done throughout history and to help empower African-American youth and encourage them to be proud of their heritage.

Like pretty much everyone else on our editorial staff, I am a history buff. I realized this later in life (and I know my history teachers wish I had realized it a little earlier), but it is something that is fascinating to me.

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For me, history is history. It is learning about what happened, how it happened and who the people were who helped it happen. It is a look back into the past, whether it is the past of a country or region or of a people.

But that’s it. I don’t just read about what white people did throughout history and ignore anything else, and I don’t want to know just one aspect of a historical event. I want to know as much about history as possible.

The fear was that the schools taught a history that was — shall we say — monochromatic, so Black History Month came about to ensure that teachers could expound more on what African-Americans did throughout history, and that’s great.

I guess what bugs me about the whole thing is the picture of a class learning what is in the textbooks, and the class is rolling along until February arrives, and then, we stop and learn about what African-Americans have done in history. And then, March arrives, and we go back to the rest of the curricula.

I don’t think this is really happening (at least, I hope not), but that is the impression I get about Black History Month. While it encourages information about the impact that African-Americans have made on history, having a Black History Month also seems to encourage lumping anything relating to black history into one month. A month, as actor Morgan Freeman has mentioned, is also the smallest month.

Why not a Women’s History Month? Or un Mes de la Historia Hispanica? By further separating ourselves into categories, we further separate ourselves into subcategories of human beings instead of being one species, one race — the human race.

History is the flow of time and the events captured in its stream. There is no “white history,” “black history” or any other color history. There is just history, and while I can appreciate the need to put more historical information in front of our students, I wouldn’t want people to limit their learning of any aspect of history to just one month.

David Snow is managing editor of the Demopolis Times.