This month America celebrates Black History. African-Americans have contributed greatly to the growth and prosperity of the United States. Unfortunately, apart from an intentional effort, Black history is often lost and overlooked. In many of our nations public schools Black history is taught, only during Black History Month. Even the most robust curricula often reduces the contributions of African Americans to three parts: a softened version of Slavery, a truncated version of the Civil Rights Movement and a handful of black inventors. When we observe Black History Month, we embrace the opportunity to learn about a past and a people of which we have little awareness. This lack of awareness supports the distorted perception that the greatest contributions of Blacks in America is limited to sports and entertainment. Black History Month presents an opportunity for followers of Jesus to follow the mandate in Romans 12:2 to renew our minds and be transformed by that renewed mentality and world-view. A European-American dominated view of our world devalues the intrinsic worth of other cultures and inhibits the impetus to love all people as God does, with no partiality or bias. We all have blind spots and need a means to humbly seek to be as whole and God-honoring in our perspectives as possible — black History month is one such opportunity.
Sharing and revisiting the contributions made by African-Americans to the creation of American wealth, innovation and Democracy, humanizes America, after having experienced and continuing to experience the dehumanizing effects of discrimination. History provides a record and a counter-narrative to false theories born out of American slavery that defined African-Americans as a different species and lesser human beings. Slavery in the American South not only said that blacks were subhuman—it also said, as a people we didn’t have a full and culturally rich past. These widely spread and widely believed falsehoods have had, and are having effects on the collective psyche of all Americans. February is a balm of sorts, albeit one that needs to be administered for more than a month, that helps remedy this destructive social and national ill. Why is this important? Because history informs our collective memory as a nation. History tells us what to remember and what to forget, and in turn contributes to our collective identity.
As an African American Pastor of a Christ-centered community, rapidly growing in ethnic and cultural diversity, I see this month as an opportunity to emphasize ethnic diversity as an expression of God’s glory. By God’s grace we will one day occupy a new heaven and a new earth that puts an emphasis on the supremacy of Christ and not one ethnicity or culture (Revelation 7:9,10). As Christians we should be actively pursuing that present and coming reality in our churches and daily lives now. No single ethnicity or culture can fully reflect the infinite beauty of God’s image. He gave us difference to help us appreciate and experience His splendor through diverse expressions.
So I challenge you to splash some color into your view of American history this month. Don’t dismiss someone or someones because they think differently or have had different experiences. We need diverse people, speaking truth and perspective into our lives. Only diverse views of the nation and it’s history can widen the narrow ones that keep us trapped, closed and too often divided in this country. We need and have benefitted from each other far more than our record of history has lead us to believe.
perfect God. perfecting people.