Black History Month is not about you, but it's for you
Updated: Feb 6, 2020
Dear Kind Person,
It’s Black History month and you genuinely want to do the right thing. You just don’t know what that thing is, because you’re not Black...and if you’re honest with yourself, are highly uncomfortable when race is brought up. But your discomfort is not rooted in hatred, rather your fear of offending or hurting someone. You may be inclined to resort to stepping back and giving Black people space to celebrate this month.
It’s important to remember that while Black History month is not about you, it is for you. So, don’t step back, step in.
We welcome you to be an active participant in studying and celebrating the part of history that has all too often been removed from our textbooks. Black history is about Black people, it is also history that belongs to us all.
Black people have revolutionized technology, politics, agriculture, healthcare, academia, entertainment, and athletics - just to name a few. The impact of the Black community is necessary for both remembrance and celebration.
Though the Black population has had incredible influence while enslaved, oppressed, and discriminated against, our history is not solely what has been done to us - we must include who we have become and how we are changing the world as a result.
Our country's past is riddled with inequity - and given the past and current treatment of Black people, it is natural for non-black people to experience guilt. We must remember that guilt is simply our spirit's way of letting us know when something does not align with our morals. Guilt is a messenger emotion that informs us of a value misalignment, and we need to make an adjustment to be at peace again. Read that last sentence one more time.
So, when guilt makes its way into your mind this month - you will likely experience discomfort. We challenge you to resist becoming defensive, to not ignore the guilt, but to face it and build comfort in the space of racial difference. Give yourself permission to feel, and then do something about it. On the other side of the hurdle of vulnerability, you will find courage and earn comfort.
Here are some suggestions to get you started:
White Fragility (book)
White Like Me (book)
The Unequal Opportunity Race (video)
History.com (compilation of articles and videos)
Assess your friendships. Do you have any cross-racial friendships? If not, be intentional about assessing if you’re creating an inclusive environment to foster a healthy friendship and then seek out and invest in expanding the demographics of your relationships.
What is the demographic breakdown of your company or workplace? Do you partner professionally with Black people? Find ways to get involved in the recruitment and retention of underrepresented populations.
Talk About Race
Talk about race with your friends, colleagues, and therapist. Normalize the conversation and keep it top of mind.
We invite you to celebrate with us! You can do that in many ways. Here are some of our favorite examples:
Wish everyone (not just black people) a Happy Black History Month
Do it in person, send an email, post on your social media.
Attend events celebrating Black History Month and Black culture. Trust me, you’re invited. Invite other people to join you.
Support Black Owned Businesses
Build your understanding around race and Black History year round - don’t limit it to February.
We wish you all the best in your journey towards cultural sensitivity and a very Happy Black History Month!
With love and support,
Sheree & Lacey