Monday, February 1, 2010

February=Time to Show We Love and Understand Black People.

February is the worst month of the year. Where I live, it's cold and dreary and there's little possibility of a snow day or any other day off of school (except President's Day). And I'm not a big fan of Valentine's Day but at least it tries to make this month more cheerful. To top it all off, February has been announced as Black History Month. Seriously? We get the shortest, most depressing month?!

I have a love/hate relationship with Black History Month. I love it because I get to find out about little known facts about Black people like this and watch cool documentaries and feel proud. But then after February, guess what? All that good stuff stops. Then it's on to Women's History Month. Don't get me wrong, I realize the importance Women's History month and all the other cultural months.

One day I was in class and a kid asked "why isn't there a White Heritage Month?" And other kids agreed! I'm pretty sure I just went into shock. Why isn't there a white heritage month, hmm maybe because it's WHITE MALE history month 365 days of the year! so I don't know, I don't think white males need a month dedicated to them, just a thought. Or when one of my white friends doesn't know who Malcolm X is and she's in high school! At an academically rigorous school I might add. WHAT?

I understand people mean well, but by regulating our culture to only be celebrated for a month, the problem grows worse. What's worse is that in schools, people view these months as a drag. I can't tell you how many well-meaning teachers assigned us Black History month projects and hearing the groans of my fellow classmates (and I was right there with them because the projects were usually the same old abolitionist and civil rights project, at least come up with something creative and different! I once did a project on an African American female composer, that was cool. Except then I had to write a paper. Not cool). Trust me, when you're the only Black person in the class and your whole class has to do a project about your people, you feel almost ashamed or embarrassed. Like, if this month didn't exist that celebrated my culture, we would have less work to do. I don't care anymore, but I would be turning red when we discussed Black History Month and projects/papers were assigned. Again, are we so unimportant that we only deserve a month? That our achievements only consist of 28 worthy events?

So I get it. These cultural months are necessary to educate those who would otherwise give no other thought to non-white cultures and to promote tolerance and show the diversity of America. But why can't the achievements of POC be celebrated all year round? Why must we be regulated to one month? I know white people mean well, but to me February is just a month where everyone gets to share how much they love Black people and how we have made so much progress and white and Black people understand each other so much better now. Please. There's still a lot of racial tension (hello whitewashed covers, Harry Reid and Peggy Noonan) and once February ends the posters, books, etc. will be put away for next February. I look forward to the day when cultural months are not necessary.

I certainly don't want to discourage anyone from celebrating us. I love seeing Brown faces everywhere, bring on the blog posts, book reviews, tv commercials, documentaries, newspaper and magazine articles! Just remember to keep celebrating ALL POC 365 days a year.

PS NEVER go up to a Black person and spout a random Black History fact (unless you are close friends and they know you are kidding). Otherwise, it's irritating. You don't see me telling you some fact about Italian Americans, do you? And yes, this has happened to me (someone felt the need to inform me of the importance of the civil rights movement, I kid you not!)

I'm done with my rant now. Moving on...

Here at Reading in Color I will continue doing what I do and making sure that I do have at least one review of a book with an African American main character a week. But I'm more excited about two projects I'm undertaking. I will spend one week reviewing books about Haiti (Everytime a Rainbow Dies, Ruined, Taste of Salt, Behind the Mountains, and Anacoana: Golden Flower) and include one way we can help the people of Haiti. I'm thinking of trying to do this more often with different countries, who knows maybe I could do all the countries in like 20 years? (I'm pretty sure there are no POC books set in Antartica or Switzerland). lol.

Also I'm working on finding the most diverse publishing companies (i.e. the publishing companies that publish the most diverse books). I'll be doing this for a month and posting weekly updates with the help of Doret. We will be looking at:

1. Promotion of the books (i.e. how many ARCs are sent out or guest blog pots or author interviews, etc. are done before/after the book is released)

2. How many authors of color does the publishing company have

3. How diverse are the stories?

4. How accurate are the covers and do they have a POC on them

The companies being evaluated are Random House, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hachette, Penguin, Macmillan and Candlewick. we will only be looking at the YA/MG selections.

Next month I will be looking at the smaller, indie-presses.

Here are some cool links for the day

Spirit of PaperTigers Project which is a really awesome project run by PaperTigers, they donate a set of books to areas in need and the books all feature POC. Follow the link for more details

POC Faces on Book Covers: Poll Results Mitali Perkins shares the results of the poll she did about how likely POC faces on book covers are likely to sell. It's interesting and definitely leaves plenty of room to hope and work for a change!


  1. There's a great book about this topic that I had to read for my diversity in education class called Beyond Heroes and Holidays by Enid Lee. Basically the book is against BHM and things like ethnicity nights, and states it isn't enough to have a fully multicultural classroom experience, that every day should be black/PoC history day, as history is not all rich white male. (Great book which shows marginalized historial viewpoints is A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn -- may he rest in peace)

    If I do decide to stick with being a history teacher (I have the bachelor's degree but am looking at library science masters), I know I want to have a multicultural classroom and combat ignorance.

    As an educator, I appreciate this rant, because it absolutely validates the point of view that while BHM is a step, it's not the solution, and the history classrooms at least need to become more chromatic, because it's not as though there's a shortage of PoC in history. There's so much more I could sort of rant on, but won't.

    Just know, I agree with you 100%.

  2. I met a girl in COLLEGE who wanted to know when white history month was. I thought she was making a tasteless joke, but no, she was serious. :(

  3. P.S. Move to Louisiana to cure your unfondness for February! We get two days off for Mardi Gras, plus strawberry cream cheese king cake. :)

  4. I came across your blog today and I was shocked (b/c you had the guts to show your feelings towards such a topic; a lot of people share your opinions but do not post about it!) and surprised (first blog post I've ever read that talks about this) at the first post I read, which was of course about Black History Month. I read your entry and I awed by it. You out a lot of thought and emotion into this post and I think that was great. Not a lot of people would feel comfortable about discussing topics like this but I think your really amazing to do so. I'm from India and I have a lot of African American friends and a lot of them have the same feeling about this month as you do, but I've always had a hard time understanding. With this post, I understand a lot more.

  5. Well put argument about Black History Month--don't know whose idea it was or why they picked February. I'm a fan of May (flowers and all that).

    The country focus is a good one, and I'm happy to help. And I look forward to your report on the publishers.

    BTW, I'm on a blog tour this week, so stop by if you have some time. I'm offering writing advice on Laina Has Too Much Spare Time today.

  6. I've always felt this way about Women's History Month, and have come to think about Black History Month the same way. It really feels like these months exist just so white men can pat themselves on the back for being so culturally diverse. My high school had only a handful of black students, and the only time I remember learning about African-American contributions to US history was during February (same with women's contributions - and of course, in March those were mostly the contributions of *white* women, and in February most of the contributions were by black *men,* except for Rosa Parks). Because months like Black History Month stand out, it's almost as though the powers that be have permission to ignore African-Americans the rest of the year.

    I'm really looking forward to your posts about Haiti, and I'm definitely curious what the results are going to be for your survey of the publishing companies!

  7. I look forward to reading about what you and Doret discover. That's a really neat project and I can't wait to see the numbers.

  8. Great post Ari! And it has always amazed me how some teachers just have no idea that singling out someone in a class for being different than the majority is not a great idea, even if it is nothing whatsoever to be "ashamed" about. Kids just love finding ways to separate themselves from other kids and can be quite mean about it. How can teachers not know or forget that?!!!

    On my blog, I hope to take advantage of it being BHM, but at the same time, I hope to continue the policy that all year is a time for anything!!! (if that makes sense!) :--)

  9. Black History Month was not created by white people. It was started by Carter G. Woodson.

    I understand your frustration, though. I think teachers need to stop being so boring (MLK and Malcolm X and Rosa Parks and Frederick Douglass are not the only contributors to Black history) and, yes, celebrate multicultural heroes/heroines all year long. But also encourage students to look for heroes in the fields they're interested in like you did with the black female composer.

    Of course, we're post-racial now, so we don't need these kinds of celebrations. Sigh.

  10. I see where you are coming from on this, but I've always enjoyed the new informations that I get to learn during February. I know, I should be learning all year long, but I get sidetracked so easily.

    I am very glad for the POC challenge, and for discovering your blog (and others, as well) because it gives me a chance to see things from other people's point of view.

    I'm looking forward to reading your posts on Haiti :-)

  11. UGH! My students say that to me..."Why isn't there White History Month? That's racist!" Oh boy, do I give it to them. I say the same thing..."EVERY month is White History month!" So annoying.

  12. Wow, you just ruined my entire month of blog posting. Now what am I going to write about?

    Kidding. Kind of. Because reading your post I wonder at the value of highlighting books for Black History Month. I've always tried to find some choices that were less obvious or better quality, but now it feels awkward. I don't know what the answer is. But I do know that our beginning history of America is that of white men. Maybe we all need to get to a point where we can accept that and move on without having to try so hard to show the contributions of woman or African-Americans as way of compensation.

  13. I look forward to reading your blogs. I wish I was this eloquent and progressive when I was 16.

  14. Girl how do you do everything? Are you secretly a superhero? When I was your age I went to an all white school and also felt the pain of being the only one and having everyone stare at you during the month of Feb. Hang in there and school all your friends!!

  15. I just read a similar opinion over at TheHappyNappyBoolseller - - and I agree with you and her that we shouldn't need Black History Month - or all the other months - but hopefully this itself will gradually seep into general awareness so that we won't need it anymore...

    I really look forward to what you have to say about publishers... And thank you for spreading the word on the Spirit of PaperTigers Project. We're very excited about it!

  16. I agree with your dislike for February weather (I'm in Ohio--same thing here!) and your rant on Black History month, wholeheartedly. Thanks for sharing your opinion on this. I think it's very insightful and definitely something for everyone to think about this month!

  17. I am always torn about Black History Month (and the other heritage history months). On the one hand, it's one way to give extra time to a segment of history that has for so long been relegated to the sidelines. But on the other hand, it supposedly makes up for the fact that it is a segment of history that for so long has been relegated to the sidelines (which it doesn't).

  18. I'm so excited to hear that you and Doret are taking on this project to look at diversity among major publishers. I'll be looking forward to hearing what you find.

    (If you need any help with the busywork, please do let me know - I'd be happy to support. It sounds like it'll be a quite an undertaking!)

  19. Oooh, I'm excited to see Anacoana mentioned. It was one of the last couple books before the Royal Diaries series ended, so I don't think it got a lot of attention, but I remember liking it a lot. I remember thinking it was closer to "young adult" than the rest of the series which were pretty firmly middle grade. The character was older and the storyline more mature. Hope you enjoy it.

  20. I've often wondered if BHM comes across as condescending ("here, you have A WHOLE MONTH, so now don't complain!") because I feel the same way about Women's History Month. It seems like a stopgap measure--a step in the right direction, but as someone else said, NOT a solution.

    Regarding people asking how come we don't have a white history month, that reminds me of when I was a kid and asked, "Since there's a Mother's Day and a Father's Day, when is Kid's Day?" And my mom looked me straight in the eye and said, "EVERY day is kid's day!" You hit the nail on the head: Every day is white history day.

    And speaking as an Italian-American--if you came up and told me some Italian-American history fact you'd just learned, yeah, that WOULD be annoying. :)

    Wonderful post!

  21. MissAttitude, I have no idea how you find time to write such thoughtful, lengthy posts, read so much, and stay on top of the rest of your responsibilities! Because of that, I nominated you for Fabulous Sugar Doll Blogger Award. Check out the post on my blog for details.

    I look forward to reading your posts about books set in Haiti. I just set up a display in my library, and the only two fiction books I had were both by Frances Temple. I need more!

  22. @Cazzy-Aw thank you! I intend on reading and reviewing Everytime a Rainbow Dies (I've heard it's terrifc and sad) and Ruined by Paula Morris is supposed to be excellent as well. And of course anything by Edwidge Danticat

    @Christine-It is a bit condescending, it started off with good intentions. I mean we black people started it because it was necessary. but it shouldn't be necessary anymore. LOL I used to wonder why there was no kids day too!

    @Rebecca-I love the Royal Diaries series, so dear to my heart so I'm really excited to read Anacoana. Glad to hear you like it, my historical fiction tastes match yours usually.

  23. I love this rant so, so much.

    You say you're not a writer, but I disagree. You may not be a fiction writer, but you're definitely a writer. ;)

  24. This is a great post, and I relate in so many ways. It's LGBT history month in the UK right now, and if anyone asks me when Heterosexuality history month is, they'll be getting my death stare.

  25. Actually, there is a kids' day:
    I grew up in Eastern Europe and we sort of celebrated it, although it was not as important as a birthday or Christmas. On the other hand, there was no father's day (at the time, I'm not sure about now).


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