Trump is Why We Need Black History Month
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February 1 begins Black History Month, a national annual observance since 1926, honoring and celebrating the achievements of African Americans. To commemorate its start President Trump hosted a “listening session” at the White House that left listeners scratching their heads wondering if he knew Frederick Douglass, a former slave, and abolitionist, died in 1895, and 2018 will be the bicentennial of his birth.
“Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.” Expecting White House press secretary Sean Spicer to clarify what Trump meant regarding his comment on Douglass Spicer, however, made it clear he, too, doesn’t quite know if Douglass is dead. “I think he wants to highlight the contributions he has made. And I think through a lot of the actions and statements he’s going to make, I think that the contributions of Frederick Douglass will become more and more.”
The remarks from both Trump and Spicer could have been an episode of “Drunk History,” a TV comedy series where an inebriated narrator fumbles recounting historical events, which would illustrate why we need Black History Month. And, if Dr. Carter Woodson, the Father of Black History, were alive today he would’ve been troubled by their remarks. However, it’s not just African Americans troubled by Trump’s lack of knowledge; it’s across various racial and ethnic groups.
“He’s embarrassing!,” Scott Kearnan, who’s white, and the Boston Herald’s Food Editor stated. “It’s generally revealing of his lack of interest in the history of this country and civil right struggles in particular.” Sue O’Connell, publisher and editor of South End News and Bay Windows, and host of NECN’s “The Take with Sue O’Connell,” who is white, brought to my attention that Trump is not alone in not knowing basic black history. She reminded me when Libertarian presidential candidate Gary John was being shepherded to a room at a convention center named after Harriet Tubman, and he asked the aide “Who’s Harriet Tubman?” “These two men, Trump and Johnson, regardless of their opposing political views had no idea who Harriett Tubman was. Trump enthusiastically is learning about Frederick Douglass for the first time.”
Since its inception Black History, however, has been the subject of criticism from African American as well as from other races and ethnicities. Many African American, in particular, are insulted that the shortest month in the calendar year is solely