We’re supposed to treat history like we do a solar eclipse, momentarily peeking at it through unbiased frames — but too often we’re seduced into prolonged gazing, blinding ourselves from future possibilities.
Black History Month was meant to be a time for all Americans, not just black, to peek at great black American historical figures who don’t normally receive recognition for their impact on this great nation. We’re to glance at the moments our nation has fallen short of its promises so we can stare at the present to appreciate how far we’ve come.
February’s Black History Month originated as Negro History Week by historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926 to coincide with the birthdays of Republican President Abraham Lincoln, the signer of the Emancipation Proclamation, and former slave and loyal Republican Frederick Douglass.
Fifty years later, Republican President Gerald Ford extended the week into a national monthlong observation, exclaiming to Americans that we should “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often-neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
But by the time I made it to high school in the late 1990s, Black History Month had been liberalized to a watered-down version of what its creators intended as we discussed mainly Martin Luther King and Harriet Tubman only for the purpose of highlighting historical black strife.
And it’s only gotten worse now that our progressive saviors’ left hand grips tightly the microphone that dictates the narrative surrounding black existence, from the past to the present, and right hand caresses the pen that writes pernicious policy for our future.
Progressives are seducing Americans to constantly stare at past oppression of black Americans to slowly impair their vision of the present and beyond. They’re the merchants of a singular narrative about how we’re the descendants of the downtrodden who stood idly by until graciously receiving white people’s benevolence.
If you’re white, you’re supposed to grovel for forgiveness for what you haven’t personally done and simultaneously elevate yourself to become black America’s savior to allegedly prevent it from happening again. If you’re black, you’re supposed to accept your position in society as the permanently disadvantaged who resents needing assistance.
Black history is too often articulated only from the perspective of what was done to us and rarely displayed as what we were capable of overcoming — and it’s been exploited by progressives for social manipulation.
It’s a political strategy to leverage real historical black plight against the good nature of Americans to get them to bend in the direction that benefits progressives the most.
Progressives will be performatively indignant if you don’t repeatedly acknowledge the exploitation of black Americans from the past while every chance they get, they exploit the name of black Americans of the present to push an agenda or slander an individual who has nothing to do with us.
I have no interest in glossing over the past so we can pretend we’re a nation of perfection. People should know the Brooklyn Zoo caged a black man from Africa as part of its ape exhibit in 1906. Americans should learn about the horrifying gynecological experiments James Marion Sims, the “father of modern gynecology,” conducted on black female slaves, without anesthesia.
Our existence extends further than our days of forced servitude and separation through Jim Crow. Hyper-focusing only on the American government’s tyrannical actions puts our contributions in the peripheral.
If you only see us as slaves, you’ll miss out on the accomplishments of Benjamin Banneker, who notably invented America’s first clock and was hired by George Washington to help design Washington, DC.
If your only focus is on unfair Jim Crow laws, you’ll miss out on marvels like Garrett Morgan, who invented a breathing device that would become the prototype for the modern gas mask and was worn by soldiers in World War I.
As Banneker said, “The colour of the skin is in no way connected with strength of the mind or intellectual powers.”
There is no perfect country because there aren’t any perfect people. We’re sometimes conceited enough to believe that because we have more technological tools, our humanity is far more advanced than our ancestors’. But we are just as capable of rationalizing hatred and committing barbarism.
The measurement of a people shouldn’t be based on what was done to them but on how they responded to it.
Peek into our past to learn, not live.
Adam B. Coleman is the author of “Black Victim to Black Victor” and founder of Wrong Speak Publishing. Follow him on Substack: adambcoleman.substack.com.
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