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BLACK HISTORY MONTH

WHY DO WE CELEBRATE BHM?

Black History Month is intended to honor the contributions that Black individuals have made to our country while also honoring the tragedies and sacrifices they have endured. It is a time of joyful celebration and somber reflection, and provides a great opportunity for learning! 

LET'S LEARN TOGETHER!

WHY IS THERE NO WHITE HISTORY MONTH?

 

This is a question you may hear echoed about this month. Here is why we have a designated Black History Month:

  • Everyone is already required to learn a version of history that centers the white experience and white individuals. Black History Month is a way of recognizing those who have traditionally been left out of the conversation when it comes to history and progress in America.

  • White is still seen as "normal" or "default," while other races and cultures aren’t.

  • Only white people were allowed to be American citizens for a very long time. The history of our country shows that most white American leaders wanted to keep the definition of “American” exclusive, by actively keeping people of color out of the club. Black History Month is a symbolic way of showing that Black history is America history.

It is important to remember that when people complain about the lack of a "white history month," it’s their way of ignoring the fact that inequality still exists. Recognizing that inequality is uncomfortable, so some people would rather view themselves as left out than see the larger picture of systemic injustice.

IS IT OFFENSIVE TO SAY BLACK? SHOULDN'T I SAY "AFRICAN AMERICAN?"

For a long time, people were taught that it was more respectful to say "African American" when referring to Black people. The issue with this is that not everyone who is Black originates from Africa. As a result, the terms "Black" and "African American" are not always interchangeable. As language has evolved and trends have changed, the Black community has asked people to use the term "Black." You'll also notice that we capitalize the "B" in "Black." This is because Black refers to not just a color but signifies a history and the racial identity of Black Americans. As writer and professor Lori L. Tharps argues, “Black with a capital B refers to people of the African diaspora. Lowercase black is simply a color.”

WHAT DOES "BIPOC" MEAN?

BIPOC stands for "Black, Indigenous, People of Color." It was a term created in the US to center the perspectives of Black and Indigenous people in conversations about race, and offer a more specific, identity-first label for groups. 

What is important is that you don't use the general term "BIPOC" or "people of color," when what you mean is Black or Indigenous specifically. For instance, we can argue that police brutality affects people of color more greatly, but the deeper reality is that Black individuals are the specific group the police targets with violence. Ultimately, "BIPOC" is not intended for the singular, because it is referring to three groups, so you would not have "a BIPOC" but rather a collective such as "BIPOC artists." 

WHY IS IT OFFENSIVE TO SAY THAT I "DON'T SEE COLOR"?

We hear this phrase from people who are trying to say that they don't judge others by the color of their skin. Usually these people mean well, but the idea of "not seeing color" is problematic. Author Heather McGFhee argues "Racial denial took one of the aspirations of the civil rights movement — that individuals would one day 'not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character' — and stripped it from any consideration of power, hierarchy or structure. When [this phrase is] put into practice in a still-racist world, the result is more racism." Essentially, if you don't see something, you can't do anything about it. Ignoring someone's race ignores all of the significant obstacles that they may experience as a result of that race. It also robs someone of a key part of their identity. Being Black isn't a bad thing, so pretending you don't notice someone's race isn't a compliment or an achievement. You can read a great article about this here.

WHAT IF I SAY THE WRONG THING?

The most important thing is that you are willing to learn and grow. We all make mistakes and sometimes say the wrong thing. What matters is you are willing to correct yourself and learn from the mistake, rather than explaining it away or making it about you. 

SUPPORTING THE BLACK COMMUNITY

There are many ways that you can support the Black community this month and beyond, but here are a few ideas:

1) Shop at Black-owned businesses. 

 

We put our money where our values are, and supporting Black-owned small businesses shows both your ideological and financial support of Black individuals.

2) Support Black creators.

You can do this by following and sharing their social media accounts, leaving positive reviews on products, and recommending Black products and artists to your family and friends.

3) Educate yourself on systemic issues like racism, the poverty to prison pipeline, and police brutality.

There are lots of great resources out there, and it's important to use them! Rather than expecting people of color to teach you about their experience and issues they face, do that work on your own so that they aren't doing extra work in the fight against racism. 

WAYS TO CELEBRATE BHM

There are great events going on around the community where you can learn, engage, and celebrate!

Blaxplanation at History Colorado

 

The Blaxplanation program explores the stories of Colorado’s Black diaspora—outside the context of slavery—with national or international impact. Reclaiming its name from the Blaxploitation genre of the 70s, this program addresses racist and discriminatory understandings of Black life while focusing on the contributions and achievements of the Black community to our society.

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