Should There Be a Black History Month?

The debate over Black History Month is not new, but it intensified when this year's Oscar nominees were all Caucasian. For the second year in a row, the Oscars earned the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. The Los Angeles Times noted that, "It's another embarrassing Hollywood sequel ... the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has nominated an all-white group of acting nominees...The news again provoked an outcry and raised fresh questions over a familiar issue: whether an industry that prides itself on its progressiveness remains stubbornly stuck in the past."

The second year of an all-white list of nominees resulted in renewed calls for a boycott of the Oscars by some Hollywood luminaries and defense of the Academy by others. The controversy got more intense when in addition to the calls for voting with our feet, there were suggestions that the existence of Black Entertainment Television awards (BET) hurt rather than helped African Americans in Hollywood. 

Variety quoted "Clueless" actress Stacey Dash who appeared on a segment of Fox & Friends. Dash is Bajan, African American and Mexican and disapproval of racial separation as represented by Black Entertainment Television and its BET awards. "Either we want to have segregation or integration. And if we don't want segregation, then we need to get rid of channels like BET and the BET Awards and the Image Awards, where you're only awarded if you're black. If it were the other way around, we would be up in arms. It's a double standard."

In my conversations about Black History Month, I found considerable ambivalence. Some felt that limiting the recognition of African Americans to one month was not helpful. Recognition and respect should be awarded throughout the year. Further, they felt that Black History should be seen as American History. Luronda Jennings, a member of Chattanooga's Lean In - Women GroundBreakers, expressed her views, "Although Black History awareness is extremely valuable, I feel that once the entire human race respects and embraces American history and the uniqueness of all individuals, we will begin to move forward with positive change." Another member of the group, Tina Player, shared similar thoughts, "African Americans should be recognized every day and not focused on one month of the year. We as a people are important and each of us has a story to tell."

Hope for a time when Black History Month will be obsolete was joined by their down-to-earth perspectives. Voicing concern that young people learn little about Black History in school, they were reluctant to reject events marking Black History Month. Too few youngsters know about prominent African Americans beyond The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. If there was no Black History Month, would there would be any recognition at all? If there were no months celebrating America's women, Latinos, Native Americans, LGBT, disabilities, and Asian Americans, would America be more unified and better off? Or would we be cast adrift from our culturally diverse roots and become homogenized rather than harmonized?