The point of “Black History Month” is not to divide history into White history and Black history. It’s an acknowledgment or even celebration of the fact that our history is one of many stories told through the eyes of many different people. The good and bad, the ugly and profane, the beautiful and triumphant, the losers and winners the haves and have-nots. But it’s a part of human nature that we must struggle against to tell stories from a single set of eyes. To see only heroes and villains, saints and monsters. To wash away the evil or somehow make it “other” something apart from ourselves. But it doesn’t work that way.
When I was a child I took comfort from the fact that my family, so far as I knew, were early 20th century immigrants. Too poor to oppress anyone. No ancestor of mine massacred the Native Americans or owned slaves. I get a pass from the horrors this nation perpetrated. But I was missing the point. That kernel of evil that resided in the hearts of men that flowered into atrocities and genocide still resides in me. It resides in us all. Waiting. Waiting until time and circumstance call it forth to wallow in hatred. It’s not something we should ever forget. So we tell stories.
And they need not be dark nor terrible. The march for justice treads onward. People have triumphed over oppression before and they will again. It’s worthy to immerse ourselves in the joys and passions and loves of others that we might not see otherwise. We must pause and look for the hidden and invisible man. Only by embracing him, metaphorically, do we have a chance to grow; to deepen our humanity and advance the cause of justice.
We are all on a quest for meaning. If we are missing the stories and perspectives of our Brothers and Sisters, and we are, our search for meaning will be that much more incomplete. Our world will be smaller for if. More drab. Juvenile. Naive. It shouldn’t be a one month occasion. We should be striving to understand our history and our present continually. However, we are still learning. Still taking baby steps on our way to enlightenment. Hopefully we will seize the opportunities before us. Hey, the worst that could happen is we get out of our heads for a month.