A Point of View by Paul Montesino

Celebrating our joined humanity: Black History Month.
A Point of View ©1996

We have the old habit of celebrating our birthdays. Friends and family join us to
bless the day we came into the world to be part of their lives. But that is the only part of
a bigger recognition. In case you haven’t noticed, from the beginning of February, we
also have been acknowledging Black History Month.
This is not the history of Black people worldwide; it is the history of Black African
Americans in the United States in particular. That geographical limitation shouldn’t be
negative, any more than the Fourth of July celebration should reduce the history of the
British who migrated to America to the years before they came to our shores.
Black History is not only a historical enterprise but is also an educational
endeavor. Folks of other skin colors or cultural traditions take offense by such distinction
considering it an attack on the rest of us for the troubles or abuses of African Americans
throughout history, an unjust blame they consider. If you need evidence, look at the
number of schools in conservative states in America that have stricken Black History
courses or books from their schools or libraries. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,
and evil will disappear.
But Black History is not the only witness to the discriminations and prejudices
Black African Americans have faced. Included in that lot is a high number of individuals
and organizations that have contributed socially and culturally, not only to their race but
to the rest of society as well, yes you and me. As we watch the lines of foreigners
knocking at our borders trying to share in the American dream we forget that African
Americans didn’t apply for that privilege, they were in chains and forced to join the rest
of us. It was what we call slavery, but don’t knock it down, those who oppose Black
History activities, monthly or otherwise, also share the absurd belief that slavery was a
blessing in disguise. Disguises, however, have never been a legitimate life strategy in

I can’t attempt to judge the African American experience because I am not one of
them and only, they can decide on the terms to define their pride. I choose what makes
me proud, not you, and I would be hard-pressed to decide what makes you proud. But
having a different criterion does not make me better than anyone else's.
The list of famous names of individuals who are African Americans, both men
and women, is quite long. It consists of civil rights icons, Dr. Martin Luther King and
Rosa Parks come to mind, Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist; military man, Colin L.
Powell comes recently as well; Presidents, Barack Obama well known. And then there
are authors Toni Morrison and James Baldwin amongst them. Or for the sports-oriented
amongst you, just listen, and watch any sports names that make your throats sore
screaming for joy when you watch them play. Trying to list all of them would make my
article a boring exercise and wouldn’t be necessary to prove my point.
The recent epidemic of banned books and school courses I mentioned before
that deal with Black issues is a desperate attempt to trivialize the subject and skip any
historical responsibility for its content. Unfortunately for those rewriters of history, their
opposition does not subtract any shine from the subject, on the contrary.
We are also aware that September 15 to October 15 this year will be our
Hispanic Month. There are other months dedicated to other cultures or nationalities.
Irish American Month, for instance, takes place in March, around the Saint Patrick’s Day
traditional holiday. And we don’t like anyone who does not belong in the Hispanic
category to define the components of our celebration any more than African Americans
welcome theirs. Until now, we consider so-called “cultural or ethnic” Months separate
components. But there will come a day when every month will simply be a different
chapter in the bigger book of Humanity. And until that day arrives, I will behave as
though it happened already.
And that is My Point of View Today. Welcome to Black Months.
So long.

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