Perspective

Hayden White discussed the importance and value in narrativity, how it’s representing reality. I agreed with White’s thoughts on narrative, but was distracted by something I think of every February. Back in 2005, Morgan Freeman was on an episode of 60 minutes, and in the episode, Freeman was asked to discuss Black History Month. Surprising the interviewer, Freeman claimed that the month was ridiculous.

It took me a moment the first time I’d heard this, being raised to appreciate all that had been done in the way of civil rights, but then I understood as he continued on to explain his distaste for the month. We’re relegating all of “Black History” to a month. When is White History Month?

Ironically, it’s the other eleven months of the year.

Why do we feel the need to emphasize the accomplishments of African-Americans by giving them a month. If we simply gave them the time in our regular curriculum, our other eleven months, we wouldn’t need to set time aside. This setting aside a month only calls attention to the systematic racism that is still very much alive in this country.

If we don’t acknowledge racism, we are enablers to let the horrific practice continue. However, if we don’t acknowledge race, we will abolish racism. This is a fix that is, unfortunately, laborious as racism is deep seeded in culture. Something to look upon though is that people can be proud of their color without calling attention to race.

The narrative of everyone is important, but changing the narrative would create a monumentally positive impact on history and in teaching history in the future. Black history is American history. It is just all about perspective and the context it is placed within; it is about how the narrative is told.

This is not about changing two narratives, the White American and the Black American history. This is about merging the two narratives, which were separate for asinine reasons to begin with. They are the same narrative.

It’s all about perspective.

About Olivia Henley

Marine Sciences
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3 Responses to Perspective

  1. Nicole Martin says:

    Hi, Olivia!

    It was a pleasure reading your post. I agree with your statement that the idea of dividing history, particularly in the classroom, into multiple narratives presents a problem as it can at times seem to position these pasts against one another, as if they did not (and still cannot) exist in harmony. Integrating all of these stories into a multicultural history would increase the appearance of unit, but I believe that it is important to return to the question of who gets to write this single story to discover whether or not this approach is truly harmonizing rather than destructive. To eliminate bias, I find the idea espoused by Caswell of allowing members of ethnic communities to create their own groups’ histories, but this method can be difficult to allow the voices of many to enter into the formation of a single dialogue. Thus, while I absolutely agree that incorporating multiple historical views into the discipline is necessary to facilitate cultural cooperation and understanding, I think that preserving spaces such as Black History month or ethnic-exclusive databases is required to maintain or further promote marginalized groups’ abilities to share their experiences and in doing so check, so to say, the power of mainstream history’s writers.

  2. Daniel White says:

    I’ve seen that same interview with Morgan Freeman! I actually thought of it, too, as I was working on this week’s readings. I think you and Freeman offer a very unique and interesting perspective. I can see the reasoning for a Black History Month, reasoning that was obviously not intended to cause division, but rather the opposite. However, as you point out, this is just another form of segregation. White history, black history, immigrant history—it’s all part of the United States’ history. Collectively. Together. Not separate.

    So while there are good things that come from having a Black History Month, I agree that inclusivity would go a lot further if we “simply gave them the time in our regular curriculum” as you put it. I think there would be a lot less reason for division and segregation if all 12 months emphasized black history, white history, everyone’s history… just honest American history.

  3. Zachary Hughes says:

    Olivia, thank you for bringing your thoughts to the discussion. While I’ve never seen the actual Morgan Freeman interview, I agree wholeheartedly with everyone’s vision of a single unified history. As a young White man in America, I have been naively believing that these type of racial prejudices have been getting better for the marginalized. After the alarming number of police shootings and the ridiculous happenings at the University of Missouri this past semester, I have become more awake and understanding of the problems that can arise in mundane everyday life simply because of the beautiful color of skin you were born with.
    But like Olivia said, the fix to this problem is “laborious” to say the least. On Mizzou’s campus last Fall, some protesters proclaimed “White silence is violence, no justice no peace.” It was then that I really took a deep look inside myself realizing that no amount of standing idly by, simply hoping for a better tomorrow will bring about the changes needed to live in a better world. I have begun standing up to casual racist remarks and letting friends who exhibit racist tendencies. I know full well I am not making any sort of significant impact but anticipate that by tacking this “casual racism” I see in the world around me, others will notice and change their agenda as well.

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