Race Relations in the US

I wonder if such things as “Black History Month”, the celebration of “Martin Luther King Day”, etc. has the effect of actually seperating the the races rather than uniteing them as some believe. I’d like to get ideas on this subject.

Det Gamel Mand,

Well, since their purpose is not to unite anyone, they could have a side effect among some people of causing alienation. Whatever.

Rather than “uniting” anyone, the purpose of Black History Month (and there are others, they just don’t get the same media attention), is to refute the common misconceptions that black people have never contributed anything but brute muscle to this country.

I’m not sure it’s working, but that was the intent. I still run into people who claim that no black person has every accomplished anything worthwhile. One of our drop-in racist trolls was whining a few months ago that George Washington Carver gets lionized simply for playing around with peanuts. This, of course, ignores that fact that Carver almost singlehandedly saved an enormous amount of Southern farmland by finding ways to develop marketable products from peanuts. Peanuts (especially in the days before chemical fertilizers) were a valuable way to restore land that had been “farmed out” by cotton. No one would grow peanuts, however, because they were simply a low-priced food for poor people–goobers. The cotton planters would simply continue planting cotton, a cash crop, until the soil gave out. Carver saved them by providing a way to make money on their rotattion crop.

Despite living in the middle of cotton country, our troll had no idea that that was what Carver had done.

Of course, some blacks have now gone off the deep end the other direction claiming that no aspect of “white” civilization was not a “black” development that has been stolen. (Whatever.)

The original intent, however, was to eliminate ignorance so that people were not making stupid statements that “those people” had never done anything worthwhile (and, by extension, never would do anything worthwhile).

“Uniting the people” is not the goal. Can the goal be better served by teaching genuine history about all people? Possibly. Does Black History Month accomplish its goal? Possibly not.

It is probably not fair to complain, however, that it is not accomplishing something that it was never inteded to accomplish.

I wrote a long reply and just deleted it. I’m tired of debating race relations. Why? Because I’m living race relations. I’m a white guy who goes to a college that’s black-hispanic-asian. All my co-workers and supervisors are black or hispanic.

But to specifically answer your question, I think that having a week or month to celebrate a culture is fine. BUT…

Sometimes they get carried away or are wrong-headed. Here are two examples from my school:

The last black history month they put up signs everywhere each one proclaiming a black invention. Fine, but there where some like “The comb was invented by (I forget the name) an African American.” I thought, wait a second, didn’t the Egyptians and Romans have combs? There were other such signs that made me groan.

A display at the library supposedly celebrating hispanic americans was really an attack on european imperialism (in this instance, decrying the spanish actions in south america). Nothing really wrong with that, except it shouldn’t have been done in the guise of celebrating spanish culture.

Yeah, sometimes things go to far. That’s the nature of “things”… in this case, race celebrations. There’s always going to be someone going a bit too far, you know?

Isn’t hispanic just another word for Spanish? Spanish Americans decrying Spanish historical actions while celebrating Spanish culture sounds like a very mature approach. Just like Americans generally are proud of their history and culture,but still take time to review their mistakes like the Bay of Pigs and perhaps even Vietnam.I wasn’t there, but that is the impression I am getting.

It’s the same reason why all Americans hate those damned British. And the French. And, well, pretty much everyone else on Earth. :smiley:

“Hispanic” refers to any Spanish-speaking people, whereas “Spanish” just refers to people from Spain.

But you’re right. It’s really no different than Americans celebrating American history and remembering all the stuff the British did during the years leading to our independence. It’s certainly not an attack on the UK or any of its citizens, it’s just part of history and any study of that history would be incomplete without it.

Your points are well taken…I think I agree.

But how about this? In the same display celebrating hispanic culture, they seemed (emphasize seemed) to take CREDIT for things that happened…before the Spainards ever showed up! Like Mayan pyramids and stuff. I did a double-take and re-read the displays and just shook my head.

Again, in general I think days or weeks or months of celebrating a culture is fine. If it raises people’s self esteem and pride, great. But we have to consider ourselves Americans first, IMHO.

Even Coldfire, TomH, and casdave?

A more common criticism of Black History Month that I hear is that it confines discussion of historical/scientific/cultural/etc. contributions by black Americans to one month, while it should be integrated into a curriculum. Students shouldn’t have to wait until February to find out about black soldiers during the Civil War; those soldiers should be discussed during the unit on the Civil War.

I don’t know if there’s any foundation in fact for the feelings that this approach doesn’t help raise awareness levels as much as they could be raised. Any thoughts?

What’s to shake your head about? Hispanic cultures, at least from Mexico and Central America) should take credit for the
Mayan and Aztec pyramids because they are the descendants of the people who built them. The people who live in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and so on are mestizos, a blend of Spanish and Indian genes. Unlike the USA, where colonists displaced the natives, the Spanish intermarried with the natives.

Back to the OP. Black History Month is a necessary corrective to American history. Black contributions to America tend to be ignored in the classroom, so there is at least one month to empahsize that black folks weren’t just passive actors on the American scene.

if you had stopped to actually read the information, you would have learned that they were probably talking about the hot comb, a device that allows Black folks to straighten their hair. here’s a link if you’d like to read about the woman who did it, the first Black female millionaire.


you think a week or a month is enough to celebrate the history of minorities? how do you think us minorities think about the 11 months of the year when we have to celebrate your culture?

You make my point! The sign said nothing about the hot comb! It just said comb with no elaboration!

There are many sites listing black inventions.

I suspect that you don’t celebrate my culture at all. I don’t even celebrate my culture. Come to think of it, what the hell is my culture?

It’s Star Trek and McDonald’s.

HapaXL wrote:

“you think a week or a month is enough to celebrate the history of minorities? how do you think us minorities think about the 11 months of the year when we have to celebrate your culture?”

This kind of thinking is the end result of “compartmentalizing” cultural contributions.


Just what do you mean by “us minorities” anyway - the usual one’s we think of when someone says, “us minorities” (Black, Hispanic). Or should we cast a wider net - Asians, American Indian, Eskimos, etc.

And just what do you mean by “your culture”. One can assume that you mean that old punching bag - Anglo-Saxon culture. However, and this may be news to you hapaXL, white folks are much more diverse than that.

We are all Americans are we not (my apologies to any foreign posters - but this is an American issue)? Why can’t we celebrate American cultural achievements without resorting to a racial yardsticks.

I know, I know - because some white people are racist and don’t want to acknowledge the contributions of others, blah, blah, blah. Well, some minorities are too. I say to hell with 'em!!!

Let’s look at the achievement and celebrate the person accordingly.


I never understand what these objections or questions are all about…

Black History month like Women’s History month, and Hispanic history month, Native American history month are designations that celebrate the diversity of our country. Local designations and festivals like “Greek Week” and St. Patricks day parades also remind us of the contributions from different nationalities and ethnic backgrounds. How can this be a bad thing?

My children and I have always participated in learning and discussions during these designated times. We’ve attended Pow-Wows, Black History block parties, Earth Day celebrations, and Diversity Festivals. We always have fun, sample the traditional foods, music, art, and learn a lot. How can it be a bad thing for people to share the joy of their heritage and accomplishments with others?


For example, after reading goboy’s post, I will reconsider my position.