EAST LANSING, Mich. – February. The shortest month of the year.
It is also the month set aside to remind America that its history involves African Americans.
Once every year, Americans need to be reminded that “white” isn’t the only right and that blacks are more than Puff Daddys and Michael Jordans. Even African Americans, suffering from short-term memory, need to be reminded of their own reality.
African Americans are just as much a part of this country as European Americans, a.k.a. white people. For the remainder of the year, black history is swept under the rug.
The mere existence of Black History Month is an obvious indicator that this country is not a true multicultural nation. Of whom do you think when asked to picture the typical American? I won’t lie. The first picture that comes to my mind is a Caucasian individual.
Subsequently, if only white people are from America, where are black people from? Negro Land? It’s about time African-American history, along with other minority groups’ histories, finally is integrated into American history.
Let me rephrase that a bit: Will the true American history please step forward?
For Black History Month, Nickelodeon’s “Nick at Night” series is featuring a variety of black shows along with its usual lineup of classic shows. “Sanford and Son,” “The Bill Cosby Show” and “The Arsenio Hall Show” are three of the “chosen ones.”
The network describes these shows as pioneers of television. Then why not have these black shows as part of the usual lineup if they are so great? Why only throughout February?
During this brief month, black faces suddenly will appear on television shows in small abundance. More discussion about issues of race will ensue. Field trips will be made to African-American museums. The number of activities on campus centered around topics facing African Americans will rise. Even African-American legends will be paid tribute to and remembered.
Nevertheless, come March 1, these accolades all will vanish. African Americans once again will become second-class citizens, rappers and basketball players to the rest of society. “Nick at Night” will go back to airing primarily white television shows.
Racial issues will go back to being topics too taboo to talk about. African-American history will be forgotten until next year. And I’ll have to rely on the library more often to further educate myself.
If this country were as inclusive as it claims to be, the average American we’d all picture could be anyone. Our history books wouldn’t only serve the white male perspective. We would not need to set February aside to remember that American history is composed of the achievements and failures of more than just Caucasians.
During February, I get a small taste of what this country should aspire to be. More blacks are featured on television. Issues of race are discussed. African-American museums are frequented by more non-Blacks. Though many people couldn’t care less that it’s Black History Month, more people learn about and acknowledge the significance of black history during this month than any other part of the year.
Now all we need to do is extend this celebration to every other non-white and have this sense of pride and achievement remain with us year-round.
At the very least, this would be a start.
-Nnedi Okorafor is a student at Michigan State University.