Setting the Record Straight: The Reason for Black History Month and Other Black Institutions
Gary A. McAbee
Any time something is new created, it happens because there is a need for something that does not exist, a lack of something that does exist, or the desire to make improvements on what has already been created. Remember those three elements as a starting point for all creation (need, lack, or improvement) as I set the record straight about Black History Month, Black Entertainment Television, and other black institutions.
Black History Month was created years ago, because there was a lack of information about black historical figures. They were not written about in our history books or recalled in our nation’s history. In many cases, black history did not exist. It had to be added to improve the history that already existed. For one month out to the year, the historical achievements of black people in America are presented to remember these forgotten contributors to the success of our nation. Every February we hear it: Why isn’t there a White History Month?
The answer is simple: There is no need to create a White History Month, because it already exists. Just choose a month. We already learn about the achievements of white Americans throughout history. There is not a lack of white history, because it is always taught in our schools, written in our books, and recalled in our nation’s history.
Black Entertainment Television (BET) was created years ago because there was a lack of black entertainment options on television. In many cases, black entertainment on television didn’t exist. It had to be created to improve on the selection that already existed. As an example, Michael Jackson was the only black artist in heavy rotation on Music Television (MTV) during the early years of the network. BET highlighted black artists to give them exposure in the growing video music industry, and it later expanded to other programming geared toward black audiences. It wasn’t long before we heard: Why isn’t there a White Entertainment Television?
The answer is simple: There is no need to create a White Entertainment Television, because it already exists. Just choose a network. We already see white entertainment in the vast majority of television programming. There is not a lack of white entertainment, because you can easily find it on regular network and cable television networks.
The same principles hold true for other black institutions that exist in American culture: the United Negro College Fund and Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Black Coaches Association, and on, and on, and on. There was a lack, need, or improvement required that led directly to the creation of these institutions.
I hope you have gained some understanding about the issues up for debate about our black institutions. However, two other key points need to be addressed before this debate should continue:
Point one: Intent… Some people who ask about our institutions are offended by one word in their titles: Black. The word “black” is just an identifier, which is not intended to exclude whites. Everyone can participate in Black History Month; everyone can watch Black Entertainment Television. NOTE: Be careful not to confuse these two examples with private organizations that can legally be selective of their membership. This is another topic for a different article.
Point Two: Institutions… Some people will say that it’s 2015, and one way to end racial strife is to eliminate or integrate black institutions. While this is a valid argument, it does not hold merit. Who has the right to determine whether or not an institution should be shut down? As long as they are legal, institutions have a right to exist. Once a lack is filled, a need satisfied, and an improvement realized, an institution might fade away on its own because it has fulfilled its purpose. It should never be forced to cease operations.
Now that we have set the record straight, welcome to Black History Month 2015! I hope that all people can learn something new while being inspired by the contributions African-Americans have added to our great society.