During the course of the past couple of years, the one-time hoorah for Black History Month has been fizzling out and people, even the ones who should seemingly be on fire for the next 28 days, have kind of let February whisper in and waft right back out without much fanfare. But the celebration is still worth celebrating: research published in the Journal of Child Development proves black children who learn about their race not only have higher self-esteem, they do better in school.
Conducted by a scholarly duo from Harvard and the University of Pittsburg respectively, the study followed more than 600 inner-city students and found that “racial socialization”—teaching kids about their culture and immersing them in activities that hone racial pride—helps to offset the discrimination and racial prejudices they’ll ultimately face in the outside world.
Developing a generation of empowered, proud, academic whippersnappers is well worth the effort to pep up the enthusiasm about black history, in February and all the other months, too. I think we can all agree on that. (Probably not, but here’s to hoping.)
Everyone should be able to stand up tall, puff their chest out, and be inherently—and expressively—proud of their heritage and culture. And I am inherently and expressively proud to be black. This month focuses largely on our struggles, challenges, and obstacles because those are the most convenient and dramatic snapshots of our history here in America. They certainly deserve study and recognition.
But leave some folks to tell our story and you would think all we have behind us is grainy Jim Crow footage and old slave narratives. Our history is so much more than that, stretching back to the first civilization and touching every other continent. I’m proud of that. I’m proud of our sense of community, our dedication to faith and family, our creativity and perseverance, and inherent talent for making something out of nothing. I’m proud of the way we’ll kind of nod and acknowledge one another on the streets and the way we bond and feel familiar, even if we’re complete strangers.
And I was careful to pass that pride on to Girl Child. Now I’d like to think she’s taken an interest in other folks’ cultures—she’s made Indian, Malaysian, and Jewish friends at summer camp every year since the fourth grade—because she understands their importance and has an appreciation for her own. And, on the occasion that someone has attempted to slight her because of her race, she’s able to let it roll off with her dignity and confidence intact. I especially love that part.
Black History Month isn’t an end all be all to learning about who we are as a people, but it’s a good start. The education has to be broad and deliberate, but it can make a world of difference to kids growing up and establishing who they are. We kind of already knew that, but some people need social statistics to confirm the facts.
Have you learned anything new about black history this month?
Image via Clotee Pridgen Allochuku/Flickr