Black History Month - Feb. 2013

In recognition of Black History Month, we asked members of the Union community to submit their reflections and thoughts. Each participant was asked to write a response, in their own words, to the question “What does Black History Month mean to you?”

Debbie Hawkins, What Black History Month Means to Me

Debbie Hawkins
B.S. Social Work, '14

As you may be aware, “race” is a manufactured distinction, designed to support an ugly and hateful assertion of superiority of one group over another. It has been used to justify the commission of some of the most heinous and ruthless acts of violence and evil in human history. There is no disputing the misdeeds and abuses heaped upon one culture by a dominant culture—who call themselves the superior race. And, as long as that artificial barrier (i.e., race) exists, there may seem to be a need for a Black History Month, but it only seems that way.  In no other species on earth is there a racial division. There are none among the mammals, the amphibians, the trees, the reptiles, the microorganisms, the fishes, the grasses, the birds, the worms, or any other living things—only humans. 

Because of this, we must renounce the very notion of race.  It does not and cannot exist. While it is true that my ancestors’ awareness of the world was unique because of their African cultural heritage, it was forever and significantly skewed as a result of the American slavery experience. That interaction was designed to totally replace that heritage for the purpose of complete physical and psychological domination.

That said, I contend that history is history.  There is geological history, biological history, human history, cosmological history.  The origins of black history were noble enough.  Because it is true that history is “written by the winners,” the history of our people was less than important to the dominant culture. It was done partially to marginalize our ancestors’ accomplishments, but mainly to embellish the deeds of the European Americans.

Black History Month celebrates the sweat, blood and tears that were shed long before I was born so I would have the right to work, vote, and have the same opportunities as everyone else. I am grateful for the past, and I look forward to a future that was made available to me by my ancestors.  I take from our history all the good –  and most passionately – all the bad, from the murder of Medgar Evers to the accomplishment of the first African American president. If we are to survive as an African American culture, Black History Month should be moved to the forefront and each and every one of us should find it important. Our children should understand who they are, what their fathers and mothers did, and what too many died for. For now, this short, 28- day month is a time to gather with our communities and share our individual accomplishments as well as our collective plight.

Additional Reflections on Black History Month

Ray Jordan - Student, Ph.D., '13