01 Feb 2007 Might “Strengthening Black Families Month” Be Better Than Celebrating Black History? by La Shawn Barber
It’s Black History Month again.
Time to break out the tributes to Martin Luther King, go downtown to listen to bad poetry and look at bad art about the struggles of black folk, belt out a chorus of “We Shall Overcome” and sit through endless “celebrations” and TV shows about the “African American experience.”
If I never see another “special” about Ku Klux Klan cross burnings or black and white film footage of firehoses mowing down black people in the streets, it’ll be too soon.
The man who laid the foundation for Black History Month was an educator and historian named Carter G. Woodson. Noticing the absence of a history of black Americans in textbooks, Woodson created Negro History Week in 1926. He believed the omission was intentional and set out to highlight the achievements of blacks in America.
Woodson chose the second week in February to acknowledge the birthdays of former slave Frederick Douglass and emancipator Abraham Lincoln. Negro History Week gained mass appeal in the 1960s and was expanded into Black History Month in 1976.
Woodson accomplished great things despite living in an era of government-mandated racial discrimination and oppression. What would he think of black America today, given the eradication of Jim Crow and the ever-widening landscape of opportunities available to blacks with the courage to seize them?
First, I believe Woodson would be appalled by the rate of black-on-black crime. Black men kill other black men at disproportionate rates. At 13 percent of the U.S. population, blacks commit more than half the reported murders. White lynch mobs from back in the day have got nothing on modern day black thugs, who make sport out of preying on their own people.
Second, Woodson would shake his head in disbelief at the devastating collapse of the black family, caused by immorality, not white racism. In 1963, more than 70 percent of black families were headed by married couples. In 2005, 35 percent of black children were living with two parents, compared to 84 percent of Asian children, 76 percent of white children and 65 percent of Hispanic children.
Seventy percent of black boys in the criminal justice system come from single-parent homes. Fatherlessness is correlated with criminality, poverty and low academic achievement. Fatherless children are more likely to beget fatherless children – and the cycle continues.
Third, the institutionalized and deeply ingrained system of government-mandated lowered standards for blacks would infuriate Woodson. Born in 1875 during Reconstruction to a poor family with nine children, Woodson couldn’t attend school regularly because he had to work to help support the family.
After years of working and going to school when he could, the son of former slaves received a B.A. in literature and became a teacher. He studied at the Sorbonne University in Paris, received an M.A. from the University of Chicago in 1908 and a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University in 1912 – all accomplished without race preferences.
Woodson would be ashamed, I’d imagine, to see blacks advocating race preferences and fighting to maintain the position that blacks cannot be expected to compete with people of other races.
He would be deeply disappointed to hear them tell the world that blacks living in the greatest country in the world are the weakest people in the world, unable to achieve anything without the help of a patronizingly paternal central government.
If black Americans insist on having their own race-based, month-long observance, I propose we change Black History Month to Strengthening Black Families Month. We can reflect on the importance and necessity of strong families to the well-being of black children, the black community and the entire nation.
And please, no more renditions of “We Shall Overcome.”
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La Shawn Barber is an editor for the black leadership network Project 21. This article first appeared in the Washington Examiner. Visit La Shawn Barber’s blog at http://lashawnbarber.com.
Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21 or the National Center for Public Policy Research.