Rainbow Rundown: Black History Month is more than a nod to the past

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Black History Month is more than a nod to the past

Every February, Black History Month rolls around with its usual depictions of heroes and visionaries from long ago. There is, of course, absolutely nothing wrong with valuing, learning or re-learning about, and uplifting these long-passed icons — especially since so much Black history has been simplified or purified of its original strength and meaning or, worse yet, simply erased or ignored.

But Black History Month offers us all a chance to dig deeper — to ask hard questions about what we’re taught, how we’re taught, and why we’re taught the things we are.

North Carolinians were presented with that kind of challenge, and opportunity, just this week as state schools officials debated and considered just how our K-12 students should be taught the “hard lessons” of America’s past, and it’s present. At issue were new social studies standards that would teach about our nation’s dark and troubled history and how our past troubles and challenges are still present with us today.

Original proposals for the new social studies standards aspired to add lessons on systemic racism, systemic discrimination, and gender identity. Facing backlash, the state board of education modified the new standards to teach more generally about “identity” as well as the “inequities, injustice, and discrimination within the American system of government over time.”

Advocates, including those with Equality NC, were in favor of the more robust learning standards, but characterized the approved version as a step forward even as more advancement is needed.

“While a step in the right direction, we’re failing our students by not talking about these issues systematically or [intersectionally] and erasing the complexity of systems of oppression,” Equality NC said via Twitter on Thursday. “BIPOC and LGBTQ folks experience racism and discrimination through systems and forces that shape every aspect of our lives, and our education standards should accurately reflect that reality.”

More than a mere nod to the past, awareness months like Black History Month or LGBTQ History Month or Women’s History Month provide each of us an opportunity to do as the state school board, teachers, students, parents, community members, and advocates have been doing as they debated this new educational standards; namely, we should all be critically analyzing what we’ve learned and asking hard questions about the kinds of things we learn, and how all of that together shapes how we operate in the world today.

The past is not just the past. The past informs the present, and our present day and time will soon — faster than we even know — become the past, itself part of future generations’ history and social studies lessons.

What are you doing to learn about the past and our present? How will you be commemorating and marking Black History Month in February? Here are some ideas:


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Look Back

Charlotte Pride’s Limited-Edition 2020 Magazine

The annual Charlotte Pride Magazine is back — with a special year-end retrospective for 2020. With the absence of an in-person festival and parade during this wild ride of a year, we decided to push the annual magazine back to December and use it to chronicle our work and the experiences of our community this year. With a very limited print run, you can find printed magazines in select locations across the city. View our distribution locations, a virtual flip book edition, and all the magazine’s articles here.