Why, the email asks, do we still have Black History Month? The writer might be white, or she might not. She identifies her self as a "conscious woman" and sends the email to one of my public addresses. She seems chagrined that "race still matters" and wants to initiate an exchange of views with hers at the foundation - studying black history is obsolete. We have a black president, the woman writes. Black people have made so many strides. Aren't you holding on to the past, she argues, when you insist on having this month to study black history?
I am not in the habit of engaging in email debates with folks who are ill informed, so I ignore the note. Still, I am intrigued enough by it to print it out and paste it to my desktop for a few days. When I pick up high school history books, I see African American history sprinkled through, like seasoning, as opposed to being placed at a base. And I think of the tremendous vision of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the second African American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard (after WEB DuBois) and the founder, in `1915, of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). Woodson wrote the masterpiece "The Miseducation of the Negro" and founded Negro History Week in 1926. By 1976 the week had expanded into African American History Month. The Association, based in Washington, DC, sets a theme for Black History Month each year (notice that I use Black and African American interchangeably - for me they are the same thing). This year the theme is "The History of Black Economic Empowerment".
Economics is the study of who gets what, when, where and why. It is the study of the way the factors of production - land, labor, capital and creativity are paid in rent, wages, interest and profit. It is the history of the knife, of how the pie is sliced. And it is the story of why African Americans get so much less than our fair share of the pie.