To the extent that ignorance and dismissal of the myriad contributions of blacks to society continue to be pervasive, a mechanism for redressing these deficits is still desperately needed. Black History Month, if executed as intended, is indeed the most optimal mechanism for achieving this goal. Instead of advocating its abolition, we should be working to reorient Black History Month toward its original intent.
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Each year, the notion that Black History Month should be abolished is enthusiastically resuscitated under the pretense of promoting racial harmony. Those who emphatically oppose the institution of Black History Month tend to argue that it amplifies division between ethnic groups by serving to elevate blacks above everyone else.
Black History Month, the argument goes, should be eradicated because it promotes racial separatism. The protestation that, “it isn’t fair that blacks get a month to celebrate ‘how great they are,’ while no other race is afforded such a privilege,” is vehemently raised by “equality” advocates. This annual 28-day celebratory period, these advocates posit, is, therefore, antithetical to the goal of achieving racial reconciliation in America, and should consequently be abolished.
There are valid criticisms of the manner in which Black History Month is celebrated today. In many ways, Black History Month as practiced today doesn’t live up to its inaugural intent. It is unquestionably true, for instance, that Black History Month celebrations tend to unabashedly promote hero worship of a handful of notable Civil Rights leaders (such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks) rather than engage in a more comprehensive recognition of historical black achievement, and holistic celebration of black cultural heritage.
That said, it is one thing to say that Black History Month celebrations often miss the mark and should be improved. On this point, I will offer wholehearted agreement. However, it is entirely absurd to proffer the historically illiterate sentiment that Black History Month’s very impetus promotes black separatism or black superiority. It is equally absurd to assert that Black History Month’s less-than-ideal attributes and accouterments merit its abolition. Further, the idea that Black History Month takes attention away from the history of “other races” is merely a regurgitated white nationalist talking point.
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The notion that white supremacists must be vociferously challenged, not apathetically ignored, is one upon which we all should agree.
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Dylann Roof, a white supremacist who massacred nine black parishioners during a bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June last year, was convicted by a federal jury in Charleston, S.C. last Thursday. The jury, who took just 2 hours to deliberate and return with the verdict, found Roof guilty on all 33 charges in his indictment, as reported by the Washington Post.
When the jury reconvenes on January 3 next year, they will determine whether the 22-year-old should be sentenced to the death penalty or life in prison for his horrendous hate crimes. According to Joseph Meek, Dylann Roof’s childhood friend, Roof didn’t always harbor racist views, but started spewing racist white nationalist and white supremacist ideas in the months leading up to the horrific Charleston attack.
White nationalism in the United States is an ideology that espouses the belief that America’s strength as a nation lies in its founding as a “white European” country, and that white identity is presently under attack and must be preserved. White supremacy—from which white nationalism stems—is the belief that whites are superior to all other races. Many would argue that white supremacists use the label “white nationalist” to distance themselves from the negative connotations associated with being white supremacists. The terms are practically interchangeable in everyday conversation.
Meek, who himself faces up to eight years in prison on charges of withholding knowledge of the details of a crime, among other charges, stated that he and Roof often had sleep overs as kids.
Roof, a high school dropout who reportedly attended seven schools in nine years, was self-radicalized when he started reading white supremacist websites. That Dylann Roof apparently acquired his racist views not from his parents or friends, but from online outlets is a fact that is all too often ignored in discourse about this case. The fact is that in the 21st century, largely due to the advent of the internet, ideas—both good and bad—can be disseminated at a frighteningly rapid rate. The question that should be at the forefront of our minds at this point is, what should be the prevailing response to the proliferation of particularly bad ideas, like white supremacy?
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