Black History Month

In February Americans celebrate Black History month. It is a period of reflection during which the struggles and achievements of black people are recognized and celebrated. Many have questioned the need for a month dedicated exclusively to black history and this can be answered quite simply, because it is needed.

Why?

When enslaved Africans were brought to America they were stripped of their language, names, religion and way of life. They were indoctrinated into a life of chattel slavery in which they were programmed to see themselves and inferior. They were denied an education, denied the chance to learn to read and write so the knowledge of who they were before slavery was limited. Each new generation of slaves was even more separated from the knowledge that was handed down thorough oral traditions. This lack of knowledge contributed to a damaged sense of self which continues to plague many African Americans.

How has this affected us?

The Africa presented to colonizers was uncivilized, barbaric and heathen. The reality is that Africa was well established with brick and stone houses, roads and cities. Their African forefathers were skilled in agriculture, metal and stone work. There were universities and hospitals in Africa long before the European colonization. Africa was bursting at its seams with resources and flourishing economically hence its attractiveness to European powers. The idea that colonization somehow brought religion and order to these people is false. The miseducation of black people instilled a sense of shame and inferiority in them that is not easily undone.

What happened next?

Even under the severe oppression of slavery and Jim Crow many blacks managed to not only survive but to thrive and chip away at racist systems thus paving the way for future generations. Against all odds they invented and innovated. Many often overlooked inventions were developed by persons of African decent such as the ophthalmology probe used in cataract surgery, the gas mask, folding beds and chairs, traffic signals and a mechanical shoe assembly device.

It is undeniable that African Americans have made valuable contributions in a wide variety of fields. Unfortunately racial prejudice often denied such persons the recognition that was due to them. It is important for all American to embrace their struggles as well as their achievements in order to change the way that black people are perceived in the hope of eliminating the racist stereotypes that fuel racist attitudes and self hatred within the black community.

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