Antoine Germany is a teacher at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, Calif., and chair of its English Department.  He shared these thoughts to our school’s faculty, and agreed to have it published here as a guest post:

I have often heard throughout my career educators say a variation of the following: “What we really need to be doing is teaching Black history every month and not just in February.” Just like the statement “All lives matter,” is a sentiment I agree with in principle, it unfortunately subtly diminishes the cause in which the speaker purports to support.

It also offers a false choice. When teachers say that we should be focused on incorporating Black history or voices of POC (People of Color) more throughout the year, the implication is that if we improve in this area then there won’t be a need for a Black history month. I would humbly argue this is a false choice. Even if we realized our ideal of a more culturally responsive teaching environment for our students, it would not take away the need for a Black history month. 

Secondly, having primarily white teachers, determining how much Black history is enough for students of color to learn or be exposed to is flagrantly offensive to the notion of equity, and perpetuates the very notions we as an institution are trying to eradicate. Namely, that a white, patriarchal system of education that is based on Eurocentric values, notions of knowledge and behavior should be inflicted on students of color. That students will be judged, measured and punished based on these notions is a cause that we are seeking to name and eliminate as an institution.

Finally, identity is a complex notion that everyone grapples with and internalizes. There are many factors that make up our identity. Being male or female or non-binary. Tall or short. Heterosexual or homosexual or asexual. I argue that being Black in American is a unique identity that permeates learning, understanding, behavior and values. When an institution like a school attempts to ignore a person’s identity or in practice suggests that a student’s identity is irrelevant to learning they are marginalizing that student. They are in practice marginalizing the very thing that makes that person who they are. That very marginalization actually makes the need for things like Black history month more important. It’s the one opportunity for students to feel validated, heard, seen, valued and yes, even loved.