February 8, 2011
Throughout my childhood I can vividly remember February being “Black History Month”. I recall the hallways at school being decorated with posters of Frederick Douglas, Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King, Jr. I remember the lessons we would get for that month – the discussions of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties. I remember it all being there, for one month and just one month, per year.
Now as the parent of two African American children I realize more than ever before how important but perplexing this “special” month is. I understand the necessity of concentrating a month on all of the important events in African American history, but I also do not understand why it is not woven into the history of America overall. Why is a month set aside for what should be readily and regularly taught in classrooms? Perhaps we have come to a point in our nation’s history where we can begin to embrace all of our history as one history, not two that need to be kept separate for celebration at different times.
I understand that African American history is very unique to the American experience. But for the sake of my children I long for a day when their history is not taught separately from mine. I know there was a day when their history, black history, was not taught at all in most American classrooms. I am thankful that it is now and I embrace their history as a part of who they are, where they come from, and maybe even who they will become. I desire for them to grow as strong and intelligent members of society who are proud of their roots. I also wish for them not to be defined by this history. It’s a unique position to be in. Knowing that what you teach them about their history can empower and plague them at the same time.
I believe that as a parent of a black child, whether you are black yourself or not, you will encounter many things throughout their life that you would not have to consider were your children of any other race. The unique challenges of raising a minority child are ones I embrace or else I would not have adopted a child of color. I love that my kids will have a rich history to draw from and such awesome historical figures to identify with. I’ve felt a bit robbed throughout my life being a “mutt” of sorts. I have no direct lineage to point to and perhaps this is why I get so worked up about my children’s history.
So for other parents of African American children, don’t shy away from teaching your kids about who they are and where they come from. Just don’t make it for only one month per year.
Below are some good kids books about Black History and uniqueness:
- A Kid’s Guide to African American History: More than 70 Activities – Sanders, Nancy I.
- 100 African-Americans Who Shaped American History – Beckner, Chrisanne
- We’re Different, We’re the Same (Sesame Street) – Kates, Bobbi
- The Skin You Live In – Tyler, Michael
- It’s Okay to be Different – Parr, Todd
- Brown Like Me – Lamperti, Noelle