Black History Month as a White Woman in America

I once went on a date with a black man, who told me a story that broke my heart. He told me about a time in high school where his history teacher posed this question to everyone and asked them each to answer. “If you could pick a decade to live in, which would it be?” His answer? This one. She responded and said “you can’t pick this one.” His response? “Fine, the 1990’s.” She said “no, I want you to be creative, don’t pick the 90’s, you were alive in the 90’s.” He finally looked at her and said “do you realize that the further back I go, the worse it gets for me?” Then silence. He tried to laugh it off while I cringed inside. How could a high school history teacher be so insensitive?

Black history month as a white girl in school truthfully was full of slavery and then the hero’s, but cast in a light that didn’t fully capture the depth of their sacrifices. We often hear quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. that in high school that while beautiful, I realize now were often taken out of context or not fully represented.

I cannot imagine sitting a classroom listening to stories of slavery and having that be your past as a person of color but to be honest, before Bedford I wouldn’t have thought of the level of discomfort my peers were feeling as I sat comfortably in my chair thinking “that’s sad.”

I hope my children see their history as more than slavery and I hope I can be a piece of that. I hope they see the inventors, the creative minds, the politicians, entrepreneurs and powerful women. I hope they see more than the small section that history books give them.

I will never truly understand because my experience as a white woman in America will never be the same as his, or our children or others of color but I will spend the rest of my life trying to grow. Trying to push past what I’ve learned so that I can be better and know more. It feels overwhelming sometimes, trying to relearn a lifetime of teachings that kept the power of the black experience so limited but I’m trying.

Happy Black History month, to those who changed the world in every way that they contributed. For the resilience then and now which is more than any history book could ever cover. 💛

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