Whenever I fill out a form that asks me about my race, I take pride in marking the box labeled African American/Black. I am proud of my skin tone; my ethnicity; and to the extent that my knowledge of it allows me, my heritage; but I am not that fond of African American/Black History month.
That is not to say that I hate, or even dislike, what the month is designated for. I honestly think I just hate the name and the connotation that comes along with it.
It sounds silly actually writing it out, but look at it this way: over the past year, I have celebrated Native American Heritage month, I have danced for Asian/Pacific American Heritage month and, while I did not actively participate in the Hispanic Heritage month, I was aware of the events being held for it. In each of these months, we talked about the heritage and the things each culture continues to do even today.
That is what I think of when I hear the word heritage: traditions that are surviving the test of time. Whenever I hear about history, I think about times that have gone by and will likely never come back. I do not want to talk about my history; I want to talk about my heritage.
It did not always mean as much to me, because I was not taught to cherish my heritage. I was taught to be proud in the fact that African Americans/Blacks had done great things. Yet, I was never really made aware of the great things African Americans/Blacks are still doing. I had become disconnected with what should have been a large part of my life.
This disconnect was not just between me and my heritage. In my schools, we would often focus only on the history of people who were actually in the continental U.S. I could not understand why we separated African American history from the rest of American history, especially when some African American history played a direct role in the American history we studied during the rest of the school year.
It was not until I attended college that I began to understand why this bothered me. Then, that understanding was solidified when I joined the U.S. Air Force. It was actually when I took a look at the Airman’s Creed. There is a line that sticks out very strongly to me.
“I am faithful to a proud heritage.”
For most, this statement refers only to the heritage of the Air Force, but I want it to refer to my heritage as well. We continually strive to keep the values and traditions of the Air Force of old intact, so why should I not strive to keep the values and traditions of my people intact.
I am not asking for much here either. I just do not want to celebrate my history. I want to celebrate my heritage. So, keep your history and give me my heritage.