February: The Obligation Month

Although February only has 28 days, this lucky month is chock-full of nifty holidays.

We wait for a little rodent to pop out of the ground, have an excuse to eat extra chocolate, celebrate the birthdays of men we read about in history class, and sometimes get an extra day. We also get to spend the month remembering history and — let’s face it — being racist.

Arguably the most commonly misspelled month, February has Groundhog Day (Feb. 2), Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14), Presidents Day (third Monday) and every four years it gets a leap day. And since the 1920s, the month of February has been designated Black History Month (BHM).

BHM, which originally started as Negro History Week in 1926, is celebrated in February because the month marks the birthdays of two Americans that changed black history forever: President Abraham Lincoln, who helped end slavery, and former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

But the 1920s were a bit different from today because no one actually knew about black history. Nowadays, BHM sparks an annual debate over its latent racist context.

Every year I hear some white guy ask, usually jokingly, “What about White History Month?”

I normally look at him and think, “Wow, that’s ignorant.” But this year, when I overheard a white skater-punk freshman make the clichéd joke to his friend, I realized there was more than stupidity at work here.

Although my knee-jerk reaction was to give him the evil eye, I realized I might actually agree with him — though, I wouldn’t have expressed it in such inarticulate terms.

While I understand the historical importance of BHM, I think designating a whole month to one race no longer helps us “remember” history. It actually creates collateral damage by reinforcing the fact that color used to matter.

Without BHM, Joe the longboarder might not have even thought about race, nor felt the need to make his borderline-racist joke.

I feel the same way about BHM as I do Valentine’s Day. I know, comparing apples to oranges: Bear with me. Whether single or hooked up, we shouldn’t need a holiday to express our thoughts to the people we love. We should do it every day — with or without the diamond-studded bracelet or fluffy dog with a heart-shaped nose. In fact, in today’s society V-Day can ruin the best of relationships.

Black history, white history and American history (and everyone else’s history) should be taught year-round — not just in one month or on one special day. I think we’ve grown enough as a society that we can honor African-American heroes and study the progress of civil rights without being told to do so.

We should remember our history because it helps define our nation, not because we feel obligated to care.