It's Time To Change the Way We Celebrate Black History Month | Opinion

The following is a lightly edited transcript of remarks made by Keith Wyche during a Newsweek podcast debate on Black History Month. You can listen to the podcast here:

I still believe, as did Carter G. Woodson, that we do need black history as part of this narrative. Now, when he started, it was Negro history week in 1926 and it became black history month in 1976. But, we make black history every day. The reason I think it's important is manifold. I'll start with his initial reason, let's make sure that white America understands that black people played important roles in the creation and building of this country and thereby deserve to be treated equally as citizens. Secondly, we need to increase the visibility to our own black children and grandchildren so that they can understand and have pride in who they are, what they've accomplished, and this sense of we belong here. Carter Woodson said those who have no record of what their forbearers have accomplished, lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history. And as Churchill said, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

 Martin Luther King Jr. waves to supporters
Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. waves to supporters on Aug. 28, 1963, on the Mall in Washington, D.C. AFP via Getty Images

However, I have seen in 40 years of corporate America, some embarrassing Black History Month celebrations. From changing the menu in the cafeteria to include soul food and chicken and watermelon, to bringing in black entertainers and athletes for photo ops, to dress up days and dashiki and kente cloth, and showing movies like 42 about Jackie Robinson. Those are all surface level things that to some degree actually are insulting. And so while I do believe it's important that we still need to recognize and have these conversations. I also believe that we need to celebrate it very differently.

Keith Wyche is Vice President of Community Engagement and Support for Walmart and author of Diversity Is Not Enough: A Roadmap to Recruit, Develop and Promote Black Leaders in America.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.