It’s more than just a month


Pete Costanza

Black History Month celebrates the struggles and triumphs of the long road to equality that the African American community has endured over the years. We learn about Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and other great civil rights activists in grade school, and also what led to the end of slavery and the civil rights movement. But what about the other influential African Americans who have contributed to society?

History is told by the winners, and in America it is told through a “white” perspective. If we are to have an extensive education of black history, we should not only learn about the great civil rights leaders and those who helped end slavery, but also about those whose life works have made our lives easier.

Are we just paying lip service to equality in our education system when the library only carries books about jazz and civil rights? We resist the idea that this is all there is to black history. The true history of the African American community is not only defined by the civil rights movement and music but by the people we never hear about.

People like Matthew Henson, who was a great explorer, one of the first humans to reach the North Pole. What about David Crosthwait? He invented the thermostat and the modern day HVAC system, and his design was used in Radio City Music Hall and Rockefeller Center. And if wasn’t for Mark Dean who holds three of the nine original patents for IBM, we wouldn’t have a color computer monitor or the first gigahertz computer chip.

If we are to celebrate different cultures we should give equal time in education and not just one month out of the year where we only focus on the obvious. By having one month dedicated to a certain group that has been marginalized throughout America’s history, are we saying that “okay, you had your time. Now let’s move on and forget about it for the next 11 months”?

Shouldn’t we choke down the disgusting taste of the past that is slavery and really tell the full story that America is and continues to be a racist society undoubtedly stemming from the days when African men, women and children were seen as cargo and property? According to History Professor Don Kaiper, America is the only society to enslave people solely on race. Nothing can reduce the impact that slavery has had, and it would be silly to think that 50 or so years can wipe out more than a few lifetimes of segregation, mistreatment and inequality.

We need to develop an educational system where equality is shown with the truth and an extensive look into a culture, no matter how much discomfort it brings to the establishment.