Monday, February 4, 2008

It's February. The Question Is: What Do We Call It?

When I looked at the lower right-hand corner of my computer screen this morning, I was moved--partially in lamenting the atrociously early hour at which I had awaken, and partially in the shock the date caused. It was already February--the 4th in fact. Either I was getting super old or time was flying far too fast. Where had the time gone? Beyond shock, however, the date evoked several memories from childhood and even my college years, as it was part of a month during which I was to celebrate my heritage. Black History Month had begun.

Yet even as I typed the phrase above, I paused prior to solidifying my word choice. I had heard the month referred to in several ways: African-American History Month (the old school, "politically correct" choice), Black History Month (the quasi-political choice), and African Heritage Month (the postmodern choice). I understood the meaning of all three, each of them different in subtle ways. The use of "African-American" incensed some people who consider themselves of African descent, mainly because they took issue with the application of the term (i.e. how it, ironically, rarely accounts for immigrants directly from Africa; this being just one complaint of many) and found it slightly dated, having experienced its heyday in decades past. Black, while more inclusive, could be interpreted as overlooking the contributions of Latinos, Asians, Australians, and other multiracial people in general who claim partial ancestry in the African Diaspora. And finally, there is African Heritage Month, the terminology far more inclusive, being sure to include all the aforementioned people, and often the more favorable term in academic environments, nevertheless, rarely used.

So with that said, I pose a question to you, the readers: What term do you prefer to define the Feburary as the month celebrate your heritage, and why?
- Wendi Muse

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