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Black History Month:  Celebrating the American Ideal

Tracey McKee   •  February 20, 2024 

I am white, I am 53 years old, and for a good deal of my life, I thought of Black History Month as set aside for the Black Community. It never occurred to me that creating the month was a determined undertaking to fill in tremendous gaps in our country’s historical narrative – a narrative I learned in school that was written by and tailored for my race.  

This history ignored the many ways Black people have contributed to the development and growth of our country, including a labor force that delivered crops that fueled our nation’s rise, innovators who brought us inventions like the gas mask, potato chips, and traffic signals, talented musicians who influenced existing music and blazed whole new paths in music, Black men who helped settle the west, and Black women who were the human computers that helped NASA make it to the moon – the list goes on and on. 

Photo Credit: https://diversity.missouri.edu/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/2024-BHM-Web-Banner-w_o-unit-sig.png

I have worked over the past several years to acknowledge and dismantle my own racism, and Black History Month has been important in that work.  Wonderfully, it has allowed me to learn about Black people in a new light – in a light that includes not only the reality of the unjust and unacceptable treatment they have endured, but also the too-many-to-count achievements and contributions they have accumulated despite such treatment.  The men and women I have learned about, like Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughn, or the Tuskegee Airmen, stand in stark contrast to the stereotypes I was taught and harbored; these individuals, and the many more like them, represent the best of us.  These people achieved and gave of themselves despite being told “no Blacks allowed,” despite “good ‘ole boy” networks that dismissed them, despite the threat of incarceration for “stepping out of line.” 

That spirit, that tenacity, and that resilience…well, I believe that is about as American ideal as you can get.  

If you’ve not explored Black History Month before, I encourage you to do so as a chance to open your mind and your heart to the men and women you will meet during the month. They have an uncanny knack for speaking to tired stereotypes and worn-out biases.  They will compel you to see Black people as we see ourselves: multi-dimensional, complex individuals. I think we can agree honestly that that is what we all want: to be seen and considered on our merits, to be viewed as an individual with a unique history, unique thoughts, talents, and abilities, and to be valued for the capacity we have to offer worthwhile contributions. 

Not sure where to start? I like the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  This year, for Black History Month 2024, they will explore art as a social justice platform.  On their website, there are also links to 2023’s Black History Month, depicting the journey to equality, and 2022’s Black History Month, spotlighting health and wellness in the Black community.

Photo Credit: National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC)

Resources for Black History Month

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 | NMAAHC

Celebrate Black History Month 2023 | NMAAHC

Black History Month 2022 | NMAAHC

Other Blog posts from Tracey McKee:


Tracey is a blog contributor for Brownicity. Her background includes training and organizational development, employee relations, and corporate recruiting in Charlotte’s banking industry.  A wife and mother of two daughters, Tracey began her racial healing journey when she participated in What Lies Between Us in 2018.  She was moved to participate in the workshop as her concern grew about the number of police shootings where unarmed black men were killed.  Colin Kaepernick’s  kneeling during the singing of the national anthem solidified her desire to learn and do more about ending racism.