Black History Month is understandably fraught for conservatives. As popularly observed, it highlights supposedly enduring discrimination against blacks, and reinforces the progressive narrative that blacks are hopelessly oppressed by the white majority. Given progressives’ stranglehold on the narrative, it’s reasonable to ask whether Black History Month is even worth saving. Many conservatives would likely say no. Any realistic assessment of our present culture would have to conclude, however, that Black History Month isn’t going anywhere. Conservatives, then, have a choice to make: whether to regard Black History Month as inherently left-wing and beyond reform, or to consider whether the observance can be used to recast black history as an essentially American story of triumph over adversity.

Conservatives rightly sense that progressives’ blinkered celebration of Black History Month is intended to undermine the values of liberty, equality, and justice. But by rejecting Black History Month, conservatives risk ceding black history entirely to the Left, at the expense of blacks who historically have bucked liberal pieties. At the National Museum of African American History and Culture, for example, figures such as Justice Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice play secondary roles, while economists Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell are absent. Meantime, curators dedicated an entire exhibit to Trayvon Martin, and featured Anita Hill more prominently than Justice Thomas in the museum’s section on black accomplishments at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Conservatives should not accept progressives’ characterization of black history as distinct from American history. Embracing that narrative will only further enable the constellation of progressive nonprofits, activists, academics, and politicians that relies on the black-victimhood narrative to pursue their own agendas—as with the DEI consultants who peddle allegations of systemic racial bias to extract lavish compensation packages from corporate America. Accepting the progressive narrative only strengthens their hand.

Instead, conservatives should situate Black History Month as an extension of American history, using anecdotes to illustrate how blacks have overcome injustice and embraced American ideals. The personal stories of Justice Thomas, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice, for example, challenge the Left’s assumptions about black progress in the United States. Thomas is among the greatest U.S. Supreme Court justices in American history, regardless of race; Powell was a decorated military officer and was awarded the Soldiers Medal for heroically saving three servicemembers; Rice was among the foremost experts on Soviet Russia during the Cold War, aiding her ascent to America’s foreign policy elite. Each overcame tremendous odds. Their accomplishments, and those of many similar black figures, are American triumphs.

Ultimately, stories matter. The historical events and people we celebrate reinforce certain narratives about our country and culture. When the Left celebrates Trayvon Martin and George Floyd, for instance, it is deliberately advancing the narrative that black Americans remain victims of white aggression. Conservatives, in response, must spotlight the achievements of blacks whose stories emphasize that America is a beacon of hope and redemption. This narrative of American history must be preserved for future generations of Americans, black and white alike.

Photo by Larry Downing/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images


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