Why We Need To Stop Feeling Awkward About Black History Month

by Gloria Atanmo

Dear America,

Stop feeling awkward about Black History Month. You know what's awkward? Tiptoeing around a subject that should be celebrated and praised.

Black history isn't as simple as allocating 28 to 29 days of the year to acknowledge black people's existence in this country. Every time this month rolls around, news outlets do their best to step up to the plate to enlighten and educate people who still don't understand the importance of this discussion.

Growing up, classes that spent those three to four forced days of the school year covering African-American history would awkwardly jump from slavery to Martin Luther King Jr., never doing proper justice to the many great contributions of blacks in between and beyond that period.

For every person who thinks we should just "get over it" because blacks are on TV (usually casted as stereotypes, but I digress) and we can use the same bathrooms as white people, just take a step back for two seconds. When we make these statements, have these award shows or develop our own platforms, people cry out that we're further segregating ourselves, when all we're really trying to do is celebrate our contributions to society because no one else will.

Instead of waiting or begging for inclusion, we've found ways to showcase our dynamism on our own. Our gospel choirs, dance culture and hairstyles are constantly appropriated and adapted by others who then make them "cool" enough to be mainstream, and they get all the credit.

Look how quickly people turned away from us during the "Black Lives Matter" movement, but how rapidly they turned back around to learn how to "whip and nae nae." Do you see how exhausting it gets to only be acknowledged when people can benefit from what you contribute?

We don't like being used for the parts of ourselves that you all enjoy. If you want to copy aspects of our culture, then at least acknowledge all of it.

As a '90s kid who was well into the New Millennium growing up, I remember race was a nonexistent topic. People thought that if we just never addressed it, it didn't exist.

But, I'm so happy and relieved people are finally finding comfort in having this dialogue. We're curious and dynamic people, and if you grew up in a country where you were underrepresented or underappreciated in every aspect of life, suppressing your emotions can only be a solution for so long. So, I urge everyone to take a step back and listen to the voices of people who need to "get over it" and "move on."

Did you personally enslave a race? Of course not. So, realize the conviction you might feel is natural because maybe you've just never given the other side a second thought.

My intention is never to make people feel guilty or attacked because I truly wish this wasn't so awkward for people to discuss. So, seek to understand instead of seeking to be understood, and you'll be amazed at how much you can learn about yourself and others.

Stop feeling awkward about Black History Month if you're not black, and take a moment to understand this dialogue that has been suppressed for years. It should be one we can all comfortably have today.

Happy Black History Month to everyone.