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Yes, Black History Month Is Important

Photograph by Getty Images

During the month of February, we recognize the contributions of African-Americans to our nation's history. Books and crafts, videos and lesson plans are bouncing around the internet as educators and parents look for resources to teach their students and kids about black history. I've been searching all month for materials that feature Afro-Latinos to use in my homeschooling curriculum.

But I recently had a post pop up in my Facebook feed that said, "What month is white history month? When is straight-pride month? Can I just be American-American? I seem to be getting lost in the shuffle."

I couldn't stop myself from leaving a reply.

Seriously? Every month is white history month, folks. Or at least it has been for the last 239 years. All I have to do is think back to the history books of my youth. Or look through the ones that are used in schools today.

I'll be honest. I think it is awful that we have to have a Black History Month, a Hispanic Heritage Month, an American Indian Heritage Month, and an Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. Why? Because their contributions to our U.S. history and culture should be recognized throughout the year.

It is bothersome that I have to actively search out books and other resources to piece together a lesson plan that teaches my kids about the achievements of George Washington Carver, Kalpana Chawla, Sarah Winnemucca, José Antonio Navarro and others. Why aren't they just included in the main texts we use for history lessons?

It's our job as parents to make sure our kids see and hear about those who look like us and represent us in the pages of history.

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You're getting lost in the shuffle? How do you think it feels to not even be a part of the shuffle at all? I don't remember ever reading about the achievements of people like me or my family when I was growing up attending prestigious private schools that provided "a better education."

Thankfully, we have people of color who have found, or are finding, their voice and are making it heard. They are sharing their stories. And this is critical as our country moves toward one in which the minority will soon be the majority. We need to be encouraging our children of color to think about speaking up and telling their own stories so that they can become the heroes of their own enlightened lives, not victims of ignorance.

I'd like to think that we are a progressive, modern, nation that recognizes the values of all people. I'd like to think that racism is diminishing and we are seeing less and less exclusion. But the reality is we still have states that are banning ethnic studies classes despite the evidence that shows students who learn about the culture and are proud of their heritage are more likely to succeed both academically and professionally.

We still have people being shot because of the way they worship.

And we still have others whose lives are endangered because of the color of their skin.

So, no. You don't get to have white history month. That would be redundant.

Do we want to mature into a multicultural nation that recognizes the talents and richness each one of us contributes? Or would we rather be dragged, kicking and screaming, into a divided one? It's our job as parents to make sure our kids see and hear about those who look like us and represent us in the pages of history.

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