Do we need Black History Month? - Women Grow Business
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Do we still need Black History Month?

In which we discuss whether- and why- Women Grow Business is/is not celebrating Black History Month

Playing Dress Up | c. 1942-45The need for Black History Month may seem like an odd topic for Women Grow Business to be tackling. For those of you who aren’t aware, I’m a black woman. And I hear around half of African Americans are too. ūüôā

This topic has been on my mind as I try and decide whether to celebrate it here.

There’s no mandate stating I must celebrate it, nor do I have to explain the choice I make to anyone, so it comes down to a ¬†judgement call about what’s best for the publication. In either case, it made sense to me to make a statement on my position, so that there’s a place for dialogue.

Of course I want to acknowledge it somehow, as well as to take the opportunity to showcase resources for women of color in business here. However, it can be tricky to balance being more inclusive of one group, while not excluding another – that would affect readership, so it’s definitely a concern.

Then there’s the big question.

Do we still need Black History Month?

There’s a conception that there’s no need to recognize or¬†acknowledge¬†racial differences or race relations now that we have a half-African president, one akin to the idea that now that we have a black president, racism is dead. The idea has been debated for years, and not only have reported incidents of racism not gone down, some polls [pdf] and¬†observers¬†say it’s getting worse.

Saying having our first African American president eliminates the need for things like Black History month is like saying you don’t need to treat your broken leg because you bought a new car.

It’s a wonderful thing to have a black president.

It shows the progress we’ve made as a nation, and certainly helps a great deal to have a leadership example in the highest office.

But it doesn’t treat the problem.

Margaret¬†Thatcher¬†as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom helped advance women’s equality tremendously. But the journey isn’t over.¬†There is still gender inequality, and racism is alive and well.

And one of the ways to help change the latter is to correctly reflect the image of African Americans. The celebration of Black History Month does this in various ways.

For example,¬†by highlighting many of the contributions black people have made to this country’s advancement, over time the average societal perception of the worth of black people have changed. Decades or centuries from now when we truly do conquer racism, knowing what role each culture has played in making this country great can help maintain future ideals of human equality.

Of course in the present incarnation, the celebration of Black History month often leads to the same handful of familiar people being celebrated over and again. The same movies are shown on cable television Рsome years it bends more toward entertainment than education.  So as far as what we need?

If we’re going to do the same song and dance each year and call that respecting a culture’s contributions? No, we probably don’t need that.

Need is a subjective word though – what’s essential for one may not be for another, so context is important.

Within the context of whether American culture still needs to correct and adjust the images it has of black people to be closer to reality of American society? Yes, in the melting pot sense of the idea, knowing the world grows figuratively smaller each day, we need that, as a society.

Perhaps what we really need is for Black History month to evolve.

In that spirit, we’ll be celebrating here by publishing articles throughout the month of various resources for women of color in business and a few profiles from community members and other women who are making history in the here and now. Please feel free to add the resources you know about in the comments – they aren’t moderated.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Black History Album


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  1. It’s hard to believe that anyone thinks that racism is dead. Because I am white, I suppose, bigots feel safe exposing themselves to me (until I smack them down). When reading polls, always remember that people are more inclined to answer with responses that they “think” they are supposed to make. Their true feelings and opinions and feelings are rarely revealed.
     
    However, there has been a significant change in the practice of bigotry. Simply reflect on what I wrote above. People no longer feel safe proclaiming their bigotry. That wasn’t true when I was growing up in the 1950s. Obviously, there has been a change. Furthermore, bigotry no longer is the law of the land. Indeed, the law of the land has been turned on its head. We may not be able to legislate bigotry out of existence nor stop people from practicing bigotry, but we sure as hell can stop them from inflicting their bigotry on others.

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    • @JackDurish¬†Thanks so much for coming to share your story and opinions, Jack. Very good point about polls!I also agree with you on the practice of bigotry, and I think this is what people are thinking about when they proclaim racism to be dead. There are so many different ways that racism manifests itself – the form of personal, overt one-on-one racism has had the volume turned way down.¬†
       
      In fact, only once in my life have I suffered from a violent act of racism. For the generations that follow mine, I hope that becomes unbelievable.

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  2. I’m always baffled by people who say we live in a “post-racial” society. We’re fortunate to be living in a time when a black man can be president, as that shows we’ve come a long way. But the fact that he’s the first and people still talk about it in those terms – that’s not post-racial. Whatever post-racial actually even means.

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    • @AmyVernon¬†There, you hit it. What does post-racial mean? I’m hoping we get to the point where we throw out this color-blind pretend-y nonsense and truly start to get to know and understand each other. America would be so much richer for it.

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  3. Resources for women of color…In the Pinc. In the Pinc is a supportive business building community for women of color entrepreneurs and small business owners. http://www.inthepinc.net

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