City Journal Spring 2014

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John H. McWhorter
Do We Really Need Black History Month? « Back to Story

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I think Black History month (BHM) is definitely important. I was a military brat growing up and mostly lived overseas during my youth. On the overseas bases they take BHM quite seriously. On tv the Aemrican Forces Network (AFN) provides shows back home for soldiers. However during BHM each day would introduce ten minute shorts about important Black Americans who have contributed to society past and present (not just the obvious ones MLK, Malcom X, Rosa Parks etc...). Also during the weekends they would show Black films. Considering there are other Heritage Months such as Hispanic, Asian etc... BHM has been the most decorated out of all of the Heritage months considering it has the shortest month. So yes we do need Black History Month
well this is very intersting because that really the truth february in a short month but why do we have black history in fedruary? also why is only in one month?
LaTona Veal needs to do some reading on the psychosexual fetish called Submissivism.

You're holding on way too hard to that chain at your throat. Try letting it go, and taking responsibility for your life. Rather than trying to rope all white people into playing the Doms in your inner fantasies. Speaking only for myself, it's not to my taste, and if it were, I'd charge you $1,000 an hour for it as a professional service.
Thank you for your intelligent, rational insights. I am so impressed by authors, of any race, who can speak on society's challenges without the cheap shots blame and victimization. I wish our whole society could unite to rebuild our foundation of individual responsibility.

Thank you again, and keep up the good work!
Yes, I believe we all do need to know more about Black His- Story, our story. There has been enough miseducated awareness of black people in North, South and Central America since physical slavery. I also believe that Black America has been subjected to another form of slavery ever since the physical one, which is presently 'administrative slavery'...work a job now and receive a check, just to put it back in the system of the former masters children...their real estate (rent), their jobs (corporations) their banks (what can a black man save) the 40 acres and the long lost mule???????
Black History Month, Martin Luther King Day,
lousy, poorly written books by black authors who always win prestigious awards, movies depicting black men as brilliant, brave, honest and dedicated heroes and white men as fat, stupid buffoons---all lies driven by a deep-seated animus against white people and their creation, Western Civilization.

This has to be continued non-stop least some child escape the generational guilt and grievance of the left-wing psychological conditioning machine.
Jacqueline O'Connor September 03, 2011 at 4:37 PM
Is there an American Indian (or Native American) month? The treatment of those who were here when we arrived is far worse than the treatment of blacks. We didn't usually put a bounty on the black escaped slave's head, but we did do that to American Indians (man, woman, and children!).
Jacqueline O'Connor September 03, 2011 at 4:31 PM
Makes sense to me - include not exhaust.
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I think McWorther should refine his notion: It is time to let GOVERNMENT FINANCED Black History Month activities go. There is no need for example for government financed or subsidised exhibits for a separate "history" month. The slack can always be picked up by including black personages and significant events as part of REGULAR, NORMAL historical dialog. Black troops for example are part of the WwII story, from the support troops coming thru Omaha, to the anti-aircraft units of the Pacific War, to the Tuskeegee Airmen, to the original "Black Panthers," the black armored units of Patton's 3rd Army. They can be mentioned as part of the normal discourse or historical exhibit.

McWorther perhaps is not thinking about the fact that politicians, in appealing to various ethnic constituents will always play an "ethnic history" card. In this sense, Black History Month, like St. Patrick's Day, is a normal part of the game, and is not going anywhere. Nor should it be expected to, at that level.

However there is no longer a reason for government financing, over and above general financing of events involving all citizens. There is no reason at all that black folk could not pony up the cash to sponsor their own series of privately financed events and celebrations, without needing public validation and money, by white folk. Indeed that is part of the problem of Black History Month- a sense that black people need some sort of validation or recognition by white people. If white people aren't noticing, then the exercise apparently isn't any good. Buy why should this mentality govern Black History? On the flip side is the exploitation of "the black history thing" by whites for their own agendas. Far too many "programs for the disadvantaged", where white administrators and functionaries get paid, are based on the same- white people must pay us attention" meme. Oh they are paying attention, and getting paid.
In addition to Black History Month we have: Greek-American Heritage Month
Irish-American Heritage Month
National Tartan Day (Scottish-American)
Asian Pacific American History Month
Jewish-American Heritage Month
National Hispanic Month
Asian Pacific American History Month
Jewish-American Heritage Month
Italian-Americam Month
Women's History Month
I agree with this article 100%. As an African American the idea that an entire history of a people should be relegated to the shortest and coldest month of the year is absolutely ridiculous. Black history is American history and history should be remembered every month of the year.

The real issue is that this rich history of Black people in America continues to be omitted and/or revised from the story of the United States. With the Texas Textbook committee omitting slavery all together, Glenn Beck's revisionist history that the Founding Fathers were abolitionists (that gets me every time!!) and this idea that Blacks from the South went North because they could get welfare (HUH???), the need for the narrative of Black History is stronger than ever.
Only need for Black History Month is if we had a Gay History Month, a White History Month, a Hispanic History Month, Oh don't forget the pets, bisexuals, lesbians, animals, muslims and on and on and on. Of course it's rediculous.
I see the author's point, indeed, but I cannot help but recall "The Onion"'s headline on March 1st: "White History Year Resumes".
Hello John, just to let you know that there is still not alot of black history in text books. And there are still alot of children and adults who do not know what part black people played in history.By what I gather, once again someone is trying to put black history in the dark. And saying enough is enough. When text books, can put more then just a paragraph of black history in them. There are alot of black history that is still now known to others. Just the same run of the mill people. So for you to say enough is enough. You need to examine why?
Henry Louis Gates, in his position with the committee that creates stamps, memorialized a number of Black American Communists, as well as one Mexican; the late Marxist Frida Kahlo.And recently a commemorative stamp was issued for Malcom X. Black History is one thing, but white (excuse the expression)washing those of African descent whose loyalty is to anti-American political agendas, is a stretch too far. A wreck and relic of the Second and the Korean Wars, I am too politically incorrect to be relevant, but I can still rant.
One could just as cogently argue that we do not need to study classical antiquity. We do so for the some reason the we can benefit from some, not perhaps encyclopaedic, knowledge of the history of black people in this country and in the new world in general. The black people, in the role of forced laborers, have played a significant role in history of the New World and the global economy created in the wake of the discovery of the new world. Because chattel slavery was a fatal anomaly in a society and government based on universal ideas of human dignity and freedom, the trauma Americans went through in their effort to bring their institutions, peculiar and otherwise, into some sort of comformity with their ideals has been a significant part of our history since that infamous dutch merchant ship dropped anchor in Virginia almost four hundred years ago. Knowledge of this history helps us all understand how this country, this New World civilization came to be what it is today.
I think if blacks nowadays wanted to have a month for name recognition, many would listen to a conserv-Pub-fiscal sanity-values group of people and see if they can stop being Dem voting clones around election time. The past is past nowadays and we all, every color American, is facing bankruptcy, foreign evil in Islamofascism, and we need blacks, whites, browns, yellows and red skinned people groups to act as Americans instead of lobbying groups for one ideology. We are all going down the tubes if we do not face our economic insanity and our Islamic enemies as well as educational downgrades, crime states, border unrest. Instead of a month for any group, why not just have a year , this year, where we all agree that we need to deal with our over-taxation, regs, and spending. Just for one year. My bet is that many people who thought they were one ideology or another would find they could join and stop our national dissolution.
Gilbert W. Chapman
Black History Month should be renamed American History Month. It's really that simple.


I agree it should be American history month or anywhere else you happen to live in my case the UK.
It is clear that there is a strong African American narrative which should be acknowledged and celebrated. Outside of the US many aspects of African American culture is respected and appreciated, one has to travel outside of the borders to appreciate this fact. African Americans should celebrate its rich musical source Jazz, blues, rag time soul, funk and erm hip hop. Also there is African American literature anyone from Booker T Washington, W E B Dubois and Toni Morrison I could go on. AA culture is a strong ‘new world’ culture and one should gain real strength from that in order to move forward.
However I noticed that Amy Chua (Chinese American tiger mum) did not mention much about the importance of teaching ‘Chinese history’ the way that some black people talk of ‘black history’ as if it is a panacea to cure certain black underachievement in schools. America will never be able to right the historical wrongs it did to the African, but we should celebrate the fact that the African American survived, contributed and is still surviving and thriving in many instances.
Throughout the world there has been many peoples who have faced injustices from the Dalits of India, Aborigines of Australia, Serfs of Russia, Catholic Irish in Eire but one has to move on. We live in a competitive world with economic threats from Asia, many of those young people may one day take your Childs job or college place. Do you think those in Asia care about past injustices upon AAs? Of course not!

I knew nothing about the Scottsboro boys (I am a Caribbean Brit) but thank the lord for the internet as I looked it up.
Gilbert W. Chapman February 18, 2011 at 2:24 AM
Mr. McWhorter's thoughful comments reminded me of what happened during the last census.

People who complained about being asked if they had a mortgage/home equity loan on their homes missed a more significant point.

While a census certainly should ask age, number of children in the household, sex of each citizen . . . Why was the 'race question' asked?

If one subscribes to a 'melting pot' concept of America, asking a race question refutes the concept of a "United" States, just as a Black History Month does.

Black History Month should be renamed American History Month. It's really that simple.
The real question may be: "Why do we need history?" I am a language teacher and sometime teacher of US and World history. I must admit that I never teach "Black History" per se. Today we all must march to the pace of state standards and state benchmarks. Within those standards there is a fleeting reference to what might be called "ethnic episodes." In fact, one of the biggest differences between history of today -that is history for the masses-and the history of my youth- is that much more emphasis is placed on social history and ethnic history than on military history. Perhaps also we used to teach a fiction that everyone here was an American when in perhaps many people were and are in the process of Americanization. I come from an immigrant family myself and so am an American by choice; my wife is also an immigrant but from a different national origin. The result is that one is no longer what one's parents or grandparent were but something else. If one is a certain kind of person one might cherish one's connection to one's ancestral land. But inevitablely living and working in America among "Americans" makes one more of an American than anything else. Where does that leave Black History? Well, the history of African-Americans or people of color or Black-Americans is properly part of the history of America though -if we are honest- it is not the history of Africans in America. For who is the Black American or person of color as was once said? Some years ago I had the great pleasure to make the acquaintence of Col. Buddy Archer, a WWII fighter ace and a Tuskegee Airman. One one of things that facinated me about Buddy was how intensely American he was. He lived in Thomas Paine's house. And he was descended from Native Americans and European Americans as well as African-Americans. In fact, his extended family represented a remarkable melange of virtually every native and immigrant people to have settled America. Yes, Buddy was an African-American, a former UCLA teammate of Jackie Robinson -a man Buddy described as the "greatest all-around athlete" he had ever seen. He was a Tuskegee Airman and yes he related experiences of a world of White Supremacy that I have never known but I have heard of. But when all was said and done, Buddy was an American hero - a man decorated by FDR, who served under Eisenhower and who met JFK. Black History may be a footnote in history but I am glad for it. I am glad to learn of Phillis Wheatley's poetry and her meeting with George Washington. I am glad to hear of Booker T. Washington again and his sometime admirer and rival W.E.B Dubois. When I was a small boy few if any role models were African-American. Even my illustrated books -such as Heather Amery and Stephen Cartwright's delightful THE FIRST THOUSAND WORDS- were inhabited entirely by, apparently, northern Europeans. I was surprsed the other day to find a more recent edition which was, shall we say, updated or sanitized. The newer edition had no reference to demons or angels and it was as multiracial as modern day LA, London or Munich. But the integration of THE FIRST THOUSAND WORDS was not the most remarkable change. The original book was delightfully charmiing and original and full of wonderful little dramas such as the cross-school teacher or the nagging wife or the lazy husband reading the newspaper or the michevous boy getting ready to toss water on his unsuspecting friend or sister. The later PC edition omitted the obese clown and the unsighlty but very human behavior. And I kept thinking the new edition -even though the colors were bright-was flatter and less truthful than the earlier edition concerning HUMAN portrayals. And ultimately that is what history should be: something truthfully told about the past so that we can understand the past. If Black History Month helps us pause to consider an aspect of American history and the travails of a certain population which had a unique and often troubled origin, then Black History Month is worthwhile. If Black History Month ceases to be history but instead a santized PC propaganda constantly revised to include this gender and an invented gender or some fashionable character of today or recent political persuasion then Black History will not only cease to be useful but it will cease to be interesting. I think it was George Orwell who said political commentators like astrolgists could survive any mistake because their followers did not look for them for "an appraisal of the facts but for the stimulation of nationalistic loyalities." And by nationalism Orwell includied many loyalties including religious and racial. In that same essay, "Notes on Nationalism", Orwell uttered his famous observation "one has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool." Similarly, if anyone actually believes Black History Month is so signifcant and so important that the world would come to an end if we stopped observing it should stop to think if should be considered as anything but an emphermal palliative or an interesting sideline to American and World History. I ,for one, have benefitted from reading books and short monographs on the subject of Black Americans or African-Americans (99% of which were in English; some of the most fascinating "African" stories and biographies I have read were Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban and Brazilian). But we return to the metaphor of the Emperor's New Clothes (a story of Hispano-Arabic origin that features -how many people know this?- a black child). Just because some one decrees something does not make it so. Kwanza does not become a beloved tradition because government decrees it so or because some invents it. We do not belong "Brothers" (is that word even acceptable anymore to the PC fanatics?) because government declares everything well and good if we observe "National Brotherhood Week." Great men and women do need a month or day to celebrate their talents, glories, discoveries or brave sacrifices. The whole world is their monument. Lincoln no longer has a holiday to celebrate him; but I don't see interest in him waning. Lincoln remains more celebrated than any American before or since. The lesson to this is that the people always choose not the rulers. One cannot impose greatness or fame or love; these things are self-evident and great loves, great deeds, great words, and yes, great sacrifices for liberty and the common good, speak for themselves. Buddy Archer is great not because he is Black or African-American or even because he is an American. Buddy Archer is great because his story is a remarkable story and because his personaltiy is a remarkable unforgettable personality an an inspirtation to us all, even the bench warmers , spectators, tin soldiers and "Ice Cream Marines" among us. I cannot help but think that one thousand years hence no one will remember the difference between Africa, Ireland and Asia and Spain or the nation-states we think of as so permanent today. Our nationalities and racial categories will be as mysterious and difficult to understand as the Phrgyian, the Etruscan, the Innuit, the Gael, the Ethiopian, the Jew, the Arab and the Gaul.
Just tonight, there was a PSA that one of the crew of Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania that fateful day of 9/11/2001 was black. While that was an interesting factoid, is it not of more importance that all of the *AMERICANS* on that plane were killed (by Arabs). Is it not time America stopped paying homage to the National Association of "Special" Colored People?. Why can't we close ranks and all be proud citizens of "one country, indivisible" ?
This is a fine beginning for a conversation about the uses and abuses of history. How rare it has been for individuals to question properly the political uses of history. The consequences of this have been notorious. For starters, please look at the contortions over the last too many years concerning the meaning and the significance of "original intention." Of course other examples abound. That John McWhorter has had the intellectual and moral courage to suggest that the king has no clothes is a gift and an invitation to accept the necessity of further inquiry. My thanks to him.