By H. Lewis Smith
What is the significance of Black history to Black/African Americans? In essence, to this race of people, to know one’s history is to truly and intimately appreciate, understand, and leverage one’s innate, unbreakable strength. Dr. Carter G. Woodson, father of Black History Week, which later became Black History Month, understood the ramifications of Blacks remaining broken from and unknowledgeable of their history, and the apparent need for Blacks to retake control of their own destiny. Dr. Woodson understood that if Black/African Americans remained separated from and ignorant of their rich history, their roots of being, then they could have no foundation upon which to build a legacy. Plainly, no roots equal no growth, no future, only irrelevancy.
To be candid, the need for a Black History Month would be less apparent if the American halls of academe did not use systematic exploitation (past and present) to minimize exposure to Black/African-American history. The city school systems, colleges, universities and the media are by-products of Eurocentric educational philosophies. These systems were designed to retain real and/or comprehensive truths from Blacks. The system was established to teach (or force) African Americans to learn, believe, and accept European values, traditions, and habits, while at the same time neglecting and/or promoting minimal integration of Black culture and accomplishments.
Modern day manipulation of the Black/African-American mind was born out of slavery and fastly incorporated into the educational system to continually impose upon Blacks an inferior mindset that leads to lacking self-awareness. During slavery, it was forbidden for the Africans to practice their cultural traditions, honor their heritage, as well as to learn to read or write. They were basically stripped of everything that once defined them as a people and confined to learning only what slave owners permitted. Ultimately, over centuries of slavery and educational deprivation, those native ideals and traditions that African ancestors once held close within their hearts were replaced with false ideals of self of an unreal reality generation after generation. Eventually, Blacks born in America had no true and proud racial identity.
Once slavery was outlawed and Blacks were allowed to pursue education, White America devised yet another strategy to continue to push their Eurocentric ideals and veiled perception of Blacks on the Black populous. The primary channels of education for Blacks, since then, have become a perfect device for control from without. Without self-knowledge, a person has no orientation or direction; this status is akin to walking around with amnesia, or no memory of who one used to be. And with no memory of one’s past—which one’s past does often serve as a compass, a foundation to build upon and offers valuable life lessons, how can one know where they are headed? Black/African Americans must re-connect with their past and embrace it in its fullness no matter how difficult it is to accept some aspects of the ugliness that was imposed upon the people. Then and only then can Blacks progress as a race and arrive to their appointed superior position.
To be clear, historically, the Greeks traveled to Africa as students more than 2,500 years ago to discover what Africans already knew. Writing, science, medicine, and religion were already a part of the Egyptian civilization. History had already been documented thousands of years before Herodotus (the so-called `Father of History`) was even born. Herodotus, Plato, Pythagoras, Socrates, and other Greek Philosophers were all students of African priests.
Few Black/African-American college graduates are aware of this history, but yet most educated Blacks can name every European country on the map and have expert knowledge in the Greco-Roman era from a Eurocentric point of view. Interestingly enough, these same “highly-educated” people look upon Africans as being nothing more than jungle people living in huts who were blessed to be rescued from their savage lives by the white man. This perception couldn’t be farther from the truth.
As a matter of fact, during the 15th century, it was the Moors who rescued Europe from the Dark Ages. The Moors taught the Europeans maritime knowledge, which enabled whites to sail and discover Africa. Little did they know, their open sharing of knowledge precipitated the demise and eventual end of a once thriving and progressive Black civilization. Columbus would have never been able to happen upon the foreign land of America if it had not been for the education provided by the Moors.
Presently, the very existence of Greek-lettered fraternities and sororities in Black colleges and universities serves as a source of the promotion of the inferiority complex and the education of Black people against themselves. From their association and embracing of these Greek-lettered organizations comes a false worship of Greek intellect and acceptance perpetuated out of ignorance of one’s own philosophical thoughts, ideas and cognitive powers.
To put everything in proper perspective, consider the notion of how sheep dogs are trained. A sheep dog is trained by being placed in a pen as a puppy with other sheep. This puppy nurses and sucks on a sheep mother and it grows up thinking it’s a sheep. In other words, it has the body, intelligence, endurance and strength of a dog, but it has the mind frame or thought of a sheep.
Because of this sheep dog’s mind frame, it can be trained to do things a-typical of dogs and not in its own interest; the sheep dog will have no allegiance to other dogs. For example, the sheep dog and a non-sheep dog could be born at the same time from the same mother. If that sheep dog never saw that other puppy again until later years as a full grown dog, the sheep dog would treat this dog as if they were enemies. The sheep dog would turn its back on the other dog because although it looks like and is a dog, its mind has been trained and manipulated to think otherwise. The sheep dog believes it is a sheep, and, therefore, defends that which it is not from what it actually is.
This analogy relates to the conditioning of the African American against his own kind, heritage, and culture: consider the black child who, from elementary school throughout his studies to, perhaps, eventually becoming a PhD graduate, has always exclusively read and studied another culture/race’s history. This person has been trained against his own, to think in terms of someone it is not. That lacking self-knowledge is the key to separation, confusion, and stagnation or regression.
If effects of slavery are to be mitigated, it must first be acknowledged that the systemic created some unnatural behaviors in Black/African Americans. In present day and only a FEW decades removed from state-sanctioned slavery, much of the trauma of that era still afflicts the race of people. Blacks did not deserve for this to happen, but it did. As such, Blacks must acknowledge the truth of the matter, embrace the fact that ailing issues still exist, and understand that recognition of the affliction will only give rise to alternatives for remedy.
Many people appreciate the value of sharing black history—the good and unfavorable aspects—and strongly support the ongoing study and celebration of black history every day of the year. They understand celebrating black history stretches well beyond just learning the history of a people: history plays a significant role in establishing a healthy mentality, molding one’s self-image and, ultimately, the society.
Yet, others are perfectly content with celebrating black history only one time per year—or not at all—and limiting the extent of knowledge shared. They see no further need beyond the month of February to examine the black culture or emphasize African and Black/African-American contributions that unequivocally helped shape and redesign America’s landscape. For those opposers of Black History Month, one must beg the question of how can a black person—of any ethnic, social, or cultural up-bringing—want to eliminate and disassociate themselves with the total scheme of black history—ranging from a rich African history to African-American accounts? The whole idea is preposterous and simply befuddling.
Capture their minds, and their hearts and souls will follow is an age old game of deception and propaganda, influencing the opinions, emotions, attitudes and behaviors of those being subdued. An all-encompassing and on-going study of Black History is not optional but imperative. Blacks must become re-educated in line with Dr. Woodson’s definition of the term. He fought to have Blacks’ history brought to the world’s attention for one month per year; Blacks must take up the rest of the fight and serve to make black history a natural and daily part of everyone’s education within and without the community. Once all people accept that vast, rich and dynamic Black history, Blacks will bring light and resolve to the issues plaguing Black America, rising up to again become that solid, unified, contributing force to humanity. Ultimately, the entire society will benefit from the truth of Black history.
H. Lewis Smith is the founder and president of UVCC, the United Voices for a Common Cause, Inc. www.theunitedvoices.com, and author of “Bury that Sucka: A Scandalous Love Affair with the N-Word”. Follow H. Lewis Smith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/thescoop1.