There is no better time than Black History Month to say that Black history is American history. It is important for us to know our history so that we know what steps to take going forward. The great thing about Black History Month is that it is a designated time for us to reflect and learn things about our history as a nation.

One recent issue including our own Virginia governor has sparked another important reason why we must know our history. The issue of blackface came up and we realized that many Americans of all races do not know the history behind what makes it so hurtful.

In the 1800’s there was a very popular form of entertainment called minstrel show, or minstrelsy. These performances were carried out mostly by white actors who painted their faces black to portray black people in a demeaning way. These shows portrayed black people as stupid, lazy, and only good for comic relief through song, dance, and jokes. The sole purpose of these shows was to make fun of black people and reinforce their inferiority to white people.

Black History Month gives us an opportunity to explore history that was not taught to us in school, but has great social value to us all. Knowing our history should unveil the hurt behind actions like blackface and also unveil why there is still racial discord today. It also gives us the opportunity to embrace and celebrate contributions made by African Americans, valuable contributions that have shaped the way we do things today. One such example is Frederick McKinley Jones’ invention of the automatic refrigeration system in 1935 that was used in long haul trucks to carry perishable items.

Knowing our past can help us make decisions going forward. The progress that was made during the Civil Rights Movement for African Americans was greatly impactful. However, it is still something that we can continue to build on to further equality in this country. For example, school segregation on the basis of race ended after the groundbreaking Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education. Even with that progress, there is still substantial segregation in our schools today that disproportionately affects impoverished black children going to public schools. We must be open to continue learning history of all kinds, and seize the opportunities we have to learn about the different people around us.

Let’s learn about and remember our past so we can make more informed decisions now and in the future. Please do not think of Black history as something that is not for everyone. Black history is American history and has played a large part in shaping our nation into what it is today.