The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Black History Month celebrates, not chastises

(Cloud Gamble)

In middle school I had a friend who referred to Black History Month as “Make-White-People-Feel-Guilty Month.”

Unfortunately, that might feel accurate for a lot of people. The very fact that my friend would give February such an epithet shows that the mission of Black History Month does not always successfully cross the color line.

In fact, that mission did not always reach me. February would come around and I would have to sit in my middle school’s gymnasium and listen to lectures about the slave trade. I was not engaged in the least, and it did not seem like any of my peers — regardless of their race — were all that engaged, either. In most settings before Guilford, methods used for approaching Black History Month did not adequately match its positive and educational purpose.

Here at Guilford, the approach is different — the conversation is not about reminding everyone of social injustice for the umpteenth time, like was the case in middle school.

The Black History Month events at Guilford are based not around lecturing, but instead around celebration and progressive discussion. Here, it is about learning.

That learning does not just happen during February, either. The Multicultural Education Department puts on a fantastic range of events on campus that promote diversity all year, albeit less frequently.

That range of events reflects on an area of debate surrounding Black History Month: the idea that having one month set aside for black history separates black history and American history. Moreover, there is an argument that Black History Month promotes the idea that it is OK to ignore black history for the remainder of the year.

There might be some truth to this argument. However, the purpose of Black History Month is positive. Perhaps it is time to find a new way of achieving that purpose, and that is a worthy debate.

However, this debate has a different significance at Guilford because here, black history is not ignored the whole year round — no race’s history is.

We might not always do the best job we could when learning about and discussing race, but we try. We try unlike any other community I have ever been a part of, and the discussions we have here are not something we should take for granted. The very fact that we have a multicultural education department is something to be proud of; such a thing is not a feature at every college.

We are not perfect here. Sometimes that attitude of thinking of Black History Month as “Make-White-People-Feel-Guilty Month” may tinge our minds. The difference here is that that’s not good enough for us. We can recognize that we have those unfortunate feelings sometimes, but we do not accept them. Instead, we are ready to learn and improve.

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