“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”
-Steven Biko (South African Political Activist)
Black history month is a pacifier.
When a baby is hungry and the parents do not wish to feed the baby at the time, a pacifier is used to quiet the screams. Babies think that they have achieved their goal but really, the pacifier is just a temporary substitute for the meal.
According to Webster’s New World College Dictionary, pacify means “to make peaceful or calm; appease; tranquilize.” Once babies realize the pacifier was some sort of diversion, they spit it out and starts crying for food again.
To tranquilize the whining black community, the government established a month that is supposed to pay homage and recognize the black freedom fighters and civil rights leaders of history.
TV networks attempt to condense many centuries worth of significant events, cultural ingenuity and political activists into 29 days of the shortest month of the year. While companies like McDonald’s are seemingly using “Encarta” to research black figures and run brief 30-second black history segments, black people are supposed to sit back and accept these cliff noted biographies as the whole story. Oddly enough, McDonalds’ “365Black” campaign only makes a cameo appearance during February despite its name. Maybe NBC might decide to show Alex Haley’s Roots or Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, but there is so much more.
Just because the country supposedly declared February as Black History Month doesn’t mean the battle is over. Carter G. Woodson, “The Father of Black History” established Negro History Week in 1926. The week was held during the second week of February to acknowledge the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
Woodson distributed pamphlets and kits with pictures of and stories about prominent black heroes. Negro History Week became Black History Month in the 1960s.
If my calculations are correct, there is a 40-year gap between the 1920s and the 60s and there is the same number of years between the 60s and today. Why has the process of expansion stopped? If the pattern continues, black history would be a sixteen-week long celebration by now. And that observance should only pertain to mainstream society.
Biko was referring to mental slavery. The government knew if they could somehow convince black people that Black History Month was the full extent of something blacks wanted, once blacks thought the goal had been accomplished, the struggle would subside.
As black people, we have no excuse why our history shouldn’t be a year-long celebration. We shouldn’t be honoring our ancestors at the same pace as the rest of the nation. We are living because of black history so our celebration should not end when the month does.
Let’s spit out the pacifier so we can get our grub on.
Russell Nichols is a junior magazine production student from Richmond, Calif. He is the deputy lifestyles editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org