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Robin Thede: ‘Turn Black History Month Into Black History Year’ (Guest Column)

From “The Queen Latifah Show,” “The Nightly Show,” “The Rundown with Robin Thede” and “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” my career has been dedicated in large part to the representation, advancement and celebration of black people year-round. And I know what you’re thinking: “Robin, you’re black (I think, right? Googles ‘Robin Thede ethnicity’ Yes, got it, continue), so of course you do that. But why/how would I?” Well, I’m here to help.

Black History Month is both a time of grand celebration and a time when people who haven’t done enough to help further the cause of black people are reminded for 28 to 29 days (come through leap year!) of how they’ve contributed to systemic oppression. But don’t freak out – it shouldn’t have to carry that level of intense moral month-long burden.

Instead, let’s celebrate black people every day of the year and then the moral burden is spread out across 365 days and it won’t feel so heavy. Imagine if you could search for that Martin Luther King quote in August as opposed to trying to find an obscure one in February because all the good ones are already taken? Doesn’t that already sound better and more relaxing? Imagine hiring a black person in your office in June, when business is slower and the weather is nice. You’d have so much time to do it then, instead of cold and busy February! Imagine asking your black friends how to do cornrows in October instead of February when you know we’re backed up with our free help-our-white-friend-with-an-adopted-black-child braiding classes?

I’m telling you, things would be so much easier if we just celebrated black people year-round. While certainly all of these may not apply to you, here are some ways you can turn Black History Month into Black History Year:

• Hire black people of all gender identities, sexual orientations, religions and lifestyles.

• Value difference over fear, until you realize that we’re all very much alike and there is nothing to fear.

• Treat black students as equally intelligent in classroom settings and do not ever, ever, ever comment on our hair or make rules that prohibit participation in the educational process based on what our hair looks like.

• Listen to black women but don’t rely on us to fix your problem. You fix it and invite us along for the equally-paid ride.

• Read James Baldwin. Read Ntozake Shange. Read Alice Walker. Read Toni Morrison. Then read Harry Potter after and get angry when you realize there are no primary black characters, which is crazy because we are the most magical beings on Earth.

Black History Month (while it’s still a month) is an opportunity to expand your horizons of learning throughout the year. You don’t have to go accomplish some grand feat of inclusion at your job (but you can hire black people, it’s really not that hard) or right some radical injustice (but you can stop wearing blackface at Halloween). Begin by learning to value the rich history of Black people and it will add value to your life and to your entire year. Who needs all that pressure-packed into February? You already have Valentine’s Day to worry about.

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