This is Black History Month, and every February my children are forced by the public school to participate in celebrating the history of African-Americans.
About the first week of February, their school hallways and classrooms prominently display pictures of African-American civil rights leaders, most notably Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks.
Exercising the freedom which citizens enjoy when they have protection of their civil rights is something I do every day, and that gives me reason to believe that because of that freedom America is one of the greatest countries in the world.
Along side these celebrations of freedoms won, my children learn about the lived experiences of African-Americans as slaves, and also as civil rights activists in the 1960s.
My children learn a great deal about the life and times of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and then they learn about African-American culture.
Most recently, they were taught traditional chants from the African-American community including Swing Low (Sweet Chariot) and Go Down Moses, so they could learn about unique musical culture and traditions of the African-American community.
My children were also taught about the significance of the African Baobab tree, and how the tree is an important part of African-American culture. They dutifully recited various facts about the Baobab tree, including the long life which these trees typically have.
I am a White man married to a White woman, and my children are White. Celebrating cultural themes, civil rights leaders and traditional customs of African-Americans is as foreign to my children as college level math.
What my children have been celebrating in our public schools is as far removed from our own heritage and cultural traditions as the Baobab tree is from our home in rural Indiana.
My wife and I teach our children about their heritage and culture throughout the year, so we are happy that we are not constrained to only one month.
Our children celebrate the life and times of Daniel Boone, Davey Crockett and John Chapman. These men were American explorers and politicians who helped create what we call the United States of America. The historical commitments and sacrifices which these men made have elevated them to folk-legend status.
In keeping with these traditions of hard work and success, my wife and I showed our children how to plant a tree. We dug the soil, removed the stones and sweated and struggled to fit a large sapling into the ground in our backyard.
It is under that tree, an apple tree, that we teach our children about American history.
Letters from White America: Apple Trees and American History by Thomas Buhls is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.