As we come to the end of Black History Month, the shortest month made longer by a day this leap year, it seems fitting to talk about this documentary. In this film, Shukree Hassan Tilghman, a 29-year-old African American filmmaker, goes cross-country on a campaign to end Black History Month altogether in his film,“More Than a Month.” This short clip (1:56) gives a brief intro:
Watch End Black History Month? on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.
In an interview, the Tilghman explains what lead him to make the film:
A growing feeling that African Americans continue to be seen as “Other Americans.” Watching how folks were treated during Hurricane Katrina and listening to pundits refer to those victims as refugees intensified that notion. I thought that this ideal of “other” is reinforced in society by things like Black History Month. That, combined with the new idea that we live in a “post-racial” America, led to an interest in exploring these themes.
You can find the film via PBS’ Independent Lens series.
My personal belief is that we should keep Black History Month, but rightfully include much more black history within our school curriculum.
I see Tilghman’s point absoulutely. However, elementary school children have actually gained a much wider perspective on the struggles of black Americans with the innovation of setting aside February to focus on it. I’ve witnessed this and seen it evolve.
25 years ago, many white elementary children would be hard pressed to explain the achievements of Rosa Parks. Now it’s standard knowledge. This is progress. No, it’s not by any means perfect, because all of American history is inter-laced with black American history.
But if we eliminate it, it would be for the benefit of making elite historians contemplate the alternatives. The typical elementary child, or middle school child, will not become more cognizant of black history in the interim while we adjust white-washed history into a more multi-cultural message.
This is great for fine-tuning our interpretation of the huge role blacks played in American history. But maybe the fine-tuning would abolish the benefits this month has provided altogether. I think caution must be exercised in doing things that highly educated people would appreciate, while many other people would simply be deprived of the necessary information.
For example, the “white savior” meme in movies is not at all perfect. I understand this. However, these movies at least address race, and don’t send the message that we live in a post-racial society. Avatar and Dances with Wolves were criticized for having a white man “save” the endangered indigenous peoples.
However, Dances With Wolves can be accredited with opening many white American eyes to the beauty of the culture of the Plains Indians, and the brutality with which they were treated. We can’t always appeal to the highest intellects. To convey a message to the widest possible audience we must assume that audience has an AVERAGE IQ, not an IQ of 145. Because this is statistically the case.
Unless and until a more accurate and inclusive history is taught; unless and until we actually do get more than a month, I see no reason to end Black History Month. I’d rather be seen as an “other” than be completely invisible altogether.