During a recent conversation with my 14-year old son, the topic of Black History month came up. The more we discussed it, the more he just shrugged with disinterest. Finally he asked, ‘Why should I care that it’s Black History Month? Just because I’m black? So what?” I tried not to look at him crazy, but he did have a point. Why should he care?
Now, don’t get me wrong, in the past we did our part as a family to acknowledge Black History Month. We’ve attended plays, recitations of speeches, concerts and watched the obligatory movies. But once March 1st rolled around, it’s seemingly all forgotten and focus is turned toward wearing green, finding four-leaf clovers and locating the closest Irish pub. Okay, maybe not the clovers, but you get the gist. A new month comes and it’s on to the next. Clearly, we were just checking off the boxes…but why? What was the point?
Ideally, as the mother of a teenage African American son, I’d love to incorporate black history year-round. I’d like our history to be a part of him and the person he’s meant to become. But it’s going to take more effort on my part. I can’t just depend on the community, the churches and the schools. It seems like we’re all just cramming the same ol’ black history facts into this short month and then feel like we did a good job. But kids, like my son, aren’t taking interest. They aren’t feeling pride in what they learned – if they are even learning anything at all.
So who does care about Black History Month? I’m very curious. Last weekend, I attended a classical production of old Negro spiritual at the National Cathedral. There were only two black people in the whole ensemble, this included the chorus and the orchestra, and only a handful in the audience. I do understand that black history is also American history, and doesn’t just belong to blacks. But is it also an example that other races may be more interested in this than we are?
I get encouraged when I hear about the popularity of the recently opened National Museum of African-American History and Culture. The long lines and sold out ticket sales demonstrate that there is still a hunger out there to learn more about who we were, who we are and who we are striving to be. Is there hope in the air?
By asking this, I do realize there need to be changes on my end. To date, I’m making time to educate my son about his ancestors, their struggles and why it is important to remember who he is. I’ve required him to research one African-American a day and tell me why this person is important. I’ve also shared stories about myself, so that he knows I can relate to what he may face or is already facing in today’s society. I work to connect issues in the past to current issues to make the history relevant. I could go on and on, but the point is, I get it and I’m trying to approach this is a different way. But it is a struggle to maintain his interest because he feels as though this no longer applies to him. What happened in the past is in the past. I can tell he goes through the motions to appease me, but it’ll take some more time and effort to gain his genuine interest.
So, yes, he did raise a very good question. So what? Who cares about Black History Month? Now that it’s almost over, I wonder if anyone will really notice. I’m curious…does anyone still care about this month?