Morgan Freeman famously said that Black History Month was “ridiculous.” And of course, all the people who normally don’t give a lick about a black person’s opinions, turned his words into a tumblr post and shared it triumphantly with their friends.
“Look!” they would say, “Even one of your own says you’re wrong! I believe him because he’s famous and his voice is like sex. Not sex with black people though. That’s disgusting.” Then they would go make a casserole or something.
Let’s get one thing straight. Just because a movie star, who happens to be the same color as the people you’re arguing against, agrees with you, doesn’t make your argument any more valid. Actually, that sort of attitude is pretty racist.
(Also, Morgan Freeman might not have believed in the idea of Black History Month back in 2008, but he fully supported the protesters in Baltimore just last year. So, y’all racists are in a pickle now, ain’t ya?)
The thing is though, Morgan Freeman touched on a crucial part of why Black History Month is so important. He said that “Black history is American history,” which is absolutely correct. An accurate history of the United States of America consists of the contributions of, well, all Americans. Black, white, or whatever.
The problem, and this is what I think Morgan Freeman didn’t fully understand, is that black history is not being treated like American history. Instead the accomplishments and struggles of the black community are ignored and shoved aside for a largely white narrative.
Don’t get me wrong, I recognize that white people may have had more influence in shaping the United States, considering that they have made up the majority of the population and have been the ones in power since its founding. So it’s perfectly fine to acknowledge the great influence, whether good or bad, that white people have had on this country, as long as we also acknowledge the amount of influence others have had as well.
Currently in high schools, it seems as though black history only consists of two moments in time: from slavery to the civil war, and then the civil rights movement. As if black people disappeared then reappeared at random points to fuck with white people.
I mean, I totally would do that if I could. But I can’t and they didn’t.
Black people were around the whole time! Inventing things that are still used today, becoming self-made millionaires, and generally being badasses and telling systematic oppression to go suck it. It’s important for these accomplishments to be recognized because it gives role models for black people today and allows them to be proud of their own history.
Another part of Black History Month that is essential is recognizing the obstacles that black people faced throughout history that are constantly being swept under the rug. The failure that was the Reconstruction, the repeated destruction of successful black communities, the government programs designed to keep black people in poverty, and even modern history that bleeds into the present like mass incarceration, are hardly in mainstream knowledge. Black History Month gives us the chance to revisit and educate ourselves on these rarely spoken topics and that, in turn, allows us to more accurately understand the state of society today.
In short, Black History Month was not created to exclude white people, it was created to include black people in a space they should’ve always been in. It was created to redirect history back onto a more authentic and truthful path.
That’s not ridiculous. That’s justice.