Editor’s note: This commentary was first published Feb. 21, 2018.
BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. — February is the time the nation sets aside to celebrate the history of African-Americans. Dr. Carter Woodson advocated for a week to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans and initiated such a week in 1926. February was chosen because of the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. It was expanded to the entire month of February in 1976.
Many may ask why there is a need for such a month. The simple answer is that Black history is not made easily accessible in the education system throughout the country. It is therefore a time to celebrate all of the accomplishments, accolades, ups, downs and in-betweens. African-Americans have contributed immeasurably to American society and to the military. Our very own Air Force celebrates the contributions of African-Americans such as the Tuskegee Airmen.
However, I want to be clear that we do not celebrate Black History Month as if to say that African-Americans are valuable to this country only as far as they have contributed to it. We do not celebrate it to prove to anyone that we are worthy of being celebrated. African-Americans are valuable for the same reason that any group is valuable — the same reason that Hispanic-Americans, Anglo-Americans, Asian-Americans, and even non-Americans are valuable: we are all human beings. So we celebrate African-American history not because we need to prove value, but because as human beings our history is inherently valuable, just as every other ethnic history is valuable. Take some time this Black History Month to watch or read something new that you didn’t know before.