- Posted February 1, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Why is Black History Month Needed?
A couple of weeks ago I was hanging out with a good friend of mine. He’s Caucasian, well-educated and an open-minded guy always willing to learn something new. We’ve had some good conversations in the past about almost everything.
We were originally talking about my Togolese/Jamaican background when the conversation segued to Black History month, which was only weeks away. My buddy seemed baffled by the yearly idea of Black History Month.
“Man, I don’t get it – what warrants a month dedicated to one group of people over everyone else?” he asked me.
First I told him there is a Hispanic Heritage Month, a Jewish American Heritage Month and an Asian American Heritage Month. We are not alone in dedicated culture months!
I then told him about the creation of Negro History Week in the 1920s by Carter G. Woodson to celebrate Black culture and to remember the struggles we endured through slavery and Jim Crow. Plus I told him about how America’s wealth, especially in the south, was built off of the brutal slave trade.
“Yes, I understand that. However, the Black community is now living, and able to prosper, like everyone else. Slavery is done, my friend. Isn’t it time to move on from constantly keeping that mentality going?” he asked me.
I asked him if that is all he thought our history was about…just slavery?
“That is what it seems like every time I hear people talk about Black history. Well, that and the civil rights movement. I can respect what people like King did to give Black people rights,” he said.
I laughed a bit. I told him that yes, Dr. King, Malcolm X and many, many others fought for civil rights for not only Blacks, but for EVERYONE. Civil rights for ALL minorities and for women. The civil rights act gave women, even white women, rights they did not have before.
“I wasn’t aware of that,” he quipped.
“I know,” I quipped back.
To help make my friend understand why I still believe in Black History Month and why it is still relevant, I decided to ask him a series of simple questions.
“Bud, how many things can you name off that were invented by White people?” I asked.
He looked at me as if I was joking. “Seriously?! I can name countless things in this room alone…”
Fair enough. I moved the question to Asian inventions. How many inventions can he name from, let’s say, China?
He named off “paper, fireworks, noodles, chopsticks and kung-fu” in less than ten seconds. He also named off like five different martial arts, though mostly from Japan and Korea.
Ok then, next question. I asked him to name off inventions by Native Americans or Native Canadians.
“Come on man – too easy! Canoe, Totem pole, lacrosse and snowshoes...” He rambled them out in just mere seconds once again.
“What about Hispanics?” I asked.
“Pinata, tacos, enchiladas, tequila, empanadas and Ball in a Cup.” It took him a bit longer to name them off, but still impressive. Way too much on the food side of things though and I knew that “ball in a cup” was a Family Guy cheat. I told him the yo-yo was also an option.
One last question! I asked him to name just one Black invention. Just one! “…and if you dare say fried chicken or grits, I will kick your ass from here to next week!”
Confident, he sat there thinking away. He was thinking far longer than he did with my other ethnic invention questions. After a half minute of pondering and with a shoulder shrug, he blurted out “I don’t know…the Afro pick?”
Well, he did give me my one requested answer, eventually. “Ok, let me up the ante,” I said. Taking Afro pick and Jheri curl off the table (though I wasn’t aware at the time it was a White man who came up with that messy gross hair fad), could he name any other Black inventions?
“Sorry man, I got nothing. Sad to say, but I can’t think of anything right now,” he said with some concern in his face. He was probably thinking he offended me.
Far from it! I took a deep breath and spewed out, “home camera security system, laser eye surgery, locomotive train lubrication, gas mask, blood bank, super soaker water gun and traffic signal. And that is just a start!”
“Home security cameras and gas masks were Black inventions?” he asked surprisingly.
“Dude, that is awesome! I had no idea.”
“I know…and now you know why I still believe Black History Month is still necessary,” I said with a smile.
“Seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” U.S. President Gerald Ford (1976)
By: Luanga A. Nuwame
Author of: Enlightened Precipice: Black History Trading Cards