by Rev. Dr. Erwin Goedicke, North Church
“Both I and my family have sinned.” (Nehemiah 1:6)
I confess, to my genuine sorrow and shame, that I’ve never paid much attention to Black History Month.
Maybe you didn’t either.
Growing up in a white suburb, going to schools that were 100% or 98% white, there was hardly a mention of it, even though those were the years, poignantly, of the Civil Rights Era in America. I think I was aware that the second week of February was “Black History Week,” and that somewhere along the way it became “Black History Month,” but that didn’t seem to have much to do with me. I was willing to learn a few facts about George Washington Carver and peanuts and Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth; but I was just as glad to get beyond that month and back to “normal.” After all, this wasn’t my history.
As I grew up, and met and began to work with Black friends, I began to notice how important it was to them, and to minority children in schools, and to African American churches. I saw it as a kind of celebration of their heritage and culture, which I could respect and admire. But still, I regarded it as something that belonged to someone else.
And then somewhere along the way – and not so long ago – I began to realize that the history I learned was incomplete, and in fact, inaccurate at best. It is a history that excludes or minimizes or marginalizes the story of African Americans. I now understand that some of this censoring was – and still is – deliberate, the result of an ideology of White Supremacy. But some of my own deficit was – and still is – just plain ignorance, which is an expression of my White Privilege.
There is no American history apart from Black history. But because we’ve suppressed and ignored that truth, someone had to invent Black History month. It’s about time we acknowledge that fact.