Answer: Yes, I do believe that it is important to recognize the uniqueness of the African-American or Black American experience here in the United States of America. Yes, enslavement and legal segregation were death dealing institutions which America has yet to repent from.
However, as I was glancing on CNN the other night, I came across Soledad O’Brien’s documentary series on being “Black in America.” It was frustrating for me, as an African American, to watch this so called documentary because although I realize that racial oppression is still very real, and that institutional racism continues to raise its ugly head, many of the people’s problems in “Black in America” was due in large part to bad INDIVIDUAL choices. For instance, there was one particular dead beat dad who had fathered a child of an ex-girlfriend; all of the blame was places on the father but the documentarian did not even question his ex-girlfriend about the fathers of her other children. I am not trying to get on my moral high horse here but I feel that this poor guy was being scape-goated, as well as other members of society blamed for the lack of well being of the girlfriend without even a small examination of this woman’s moral agency.
This selectivity in hiding some points of the truth without highlighting other is part of the problem with being an historian. For example, I have always noticed that whenever certain scholars claim to be uncovering the historical Jesus, Jesus always seems to be reconstructed into someone who looks and acts just like us. All one has to do a concrete example of the worst kind is the German liberal Protestant New Testament scholarship in the early twentieth century where Jesus (in the gospel of John apparently) was really Aryan and more like a German citizen. Last year, Marcus Borg lectured at Brite Divinity School for Minister’s Week. He claimed that the real Jesus was a Palestinian Jewish peasant who lived in Galilee, and who lived in opposition to the Roman Empire and legalistic religious authorities. Borg, when asked if the Bible had something to say about racial conflict, answered that the Bible has nothing to say about race, and that he was surprised Christians could ever maintain a racist ideology (of course, pointing to the segregationist Christians in the South). Maybe Borg meant to say that our idea of race and race relations is not found in Scripture. Whatever he meant, he was wrong. The curse of Ham was utilized as one of the many passages in the Bible to justify African enslavement here in America. Basically, Borg ignored a concrete historical fact such as this, to hold onto a convenient white liberal opinion that people do not have to see race to recognize another person as a human being (color blindness). Faulty logic used by both liberals and conservatives.
Biased understandings of history are not limited to liberals such as Borg or aspiring documentarians such as Soledad O’Brien. I have noticed that many African Americans have an interpretation of Black History month that is limited to a select few political activists of the liberal and/or socialist persuasion. I have yet to hear (from anyone other than me) Lemuel Haynes named alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or for historians to examine the conservatism of Malcolm X. I guess what I am trying to say is that there is no such thing as an objective examination of history and if anyone tells you anything to the contrary, let them in the words of the apostle Paul, be an anathema! We all come to texts, films, artwork, and classrooms with our own biases, and therefore there are boundaries on what we as human beings can know. Black History Month is beneficial when the truth is considered and then reconsidered once more; once BHM becomes nothing more than 28 days of regurgitating myths constantly perpetuated by Black Americans on the far left of society, it has lost its original purpose. We must celebrate the achievements of all Black Americans, and not just those few who fit into the metanarrative of so-called progressive socialist politics. Let us always remember, as the great apostle of freedom once said, that “now we see in the mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). We will only know the entire truth when the greatest of all, Love, includes children of God from every nation, tribe, and every walk of life.