If I’m being honest, I never really cared that there was Black History Month. I didn’t think it applied to me. Then I began reading voraciously about the topic of racism and learned I am exactly why we need Black History Month. I attended public school in the 1970’s and my education was definitely white washed! President Reagan signed the bill establishing Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday as a national holiday in 1983, it wasn’t actually commemorated until 1986. The addition of this national holiday added a school holiday and opportunity for educators to talk about at least one important black man in history. My concern is that we’ve gone from an openly racist system to a generation that believes we live in a post-racist society and have completely missed a huge chunk of our history.
Why Black History Month is Important for White People:
- There is a sentiment that we live in a post-racist society, yet in 2016-17;
- Ten richest Americans: 100 percent white (seven of whom are among the richest in the world)
- US Congress: 90 percent white
- US governors: 96 percent white
- Top military advisers: 100 percent white
- President and Vice President – 100 percent white
- US House Freedom Caucus: 99 percent white
- US presidential cabinet: 91 percent white
- People who decide which TV shows we see: 93 percent white
- People who decide which books we read: 90 percent white
- People who decide which news is covered: 85 percent white
- People who decide which music is produced: 95 percent white
- People who directed the on hundred top-grossing films of all time, worldwide: 95 percent white
- Teachers: 82 percent white
- Full-time college professors: 84 percent white
- Owners of men’s professional football teams: 97 percent white1
- As Christians we should be the leaders in the fight for equality. Eric Mason in his book Woke Church blames the church for the radical turn of the Black Lives Matter movement because the church should have been the first to champion the cause of Black Lives. Yet here we sit in 2021 and still the most segregated hour is Sunday Morning Worship. Not a new issue folks. James Cone wrote about Martin Luther King Jr’s (Jan 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) view of the church ,
Despite his disappointment with the white church, King did not abandon his faith commitment and its link with the universal church. King was a universalist who believed that the gospel of Jesus demanded freedom for all. The white church’s failure to follow the mandates of the gospel did not invalidate it. Rather the white church’s failure, King believed, obligated him and other Christians to bear witness more than ever to the universal message of the gospel so that the world might know that true Christianity is not only concerned with heaven over yonder but also with the quality of life here on earth.2
So, if therefore, you consider yourself a Christian, a person on the planet, or a decent human being, Black History Month should be important to you. Take a moment, get out of your bubble and look at things from a different perspective. Challenge your thinking, look at someone else’s perspective, use the Google for good!
1 DiAngelo, R. J. (2020). White Fragility: Why it’s so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (p. 31). Boston: Beacon Press.
2 Cone, J. H. (1991). Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare (p. 141). London: Fount.