Recognizing the contributions of Black Americans for more than just one month

By Jaedyn Boynton, Contributing Columnist

// From Michael Jordan and Maya Angelou, to music and the civil rights movement, American history isn’t history without recognizing the role that Black people have played in it.

   Though our nation has made great strides toward equality since its founding, there is still much ground to be covered. Racism and innate biases manifest themselves in many ways, including a lack of education on the history of African-Americans. What we often fail to realize is that American history is not history without Black people. Black History Month, February, is a time for us to reflect on the often-overlooked struggles Black people face daily, to educate ourselves on the important issues, and to put that knowledge into action by working to create a more just and equitable society. 

   In our history classes, often the only time we study African-Americans is in the context of slavery. We seldom explore other contributions made by African-Americans, or we briefly glaze over them instead of recognizing their true value. The same is true in English classes, where we most often read books by white men. 

   Black History Month aims to end this selective memory — we can not just study the parts of African-American history that the nation as a whole deems important. Through the years, it seems as though our curriculum and our culture have forgotten the parts of history that are too ‘painful’ for white people to come to terms with or to study in-depth. Slavery isn’t an issue that can be covered in one day, or in a small, separate section of a history textbook. The Harlem Renaissance should not be covered by reading one book, or by giving a ten-minute presentation. 

   There are more nuanced, important parts of my history that seem to be forgotten, overlooked, or never learned in the first place. Throughout my educational career, I’ve had to learn my own history, which is something that most people at this school have not had to do. 

   I urge you to engage in this month, to dig deeper than the surface and to understand that Black people are more than just slaves or people marching for civil rights; we built this nation. Black History Month is a time to relearn what we’ve forgotten, to refresh our collective memory, and to take accountability for our understanding of what American history truly entails. 

   In a country still riddled with white privilege, Black History Month highlights the challenges that African-American people face, and how allies can help. Black History Month allows Black people to feel empowered by our own history; we recognize that through centuries of oppression, and systemic racism in today’s society, we have persevered and continue to fight for a just and equal nation. We are proud, strong, and resilient. 

   The challenges we have overcome do not stain our history, but rather contribute to our sense of selves and our determination to fight injustice. This month allows each and every one of us — of every skin color — to examine our role in fixing problems such as police brutality, mass incarceration, and cultural appropriation. 

   This Black History month, I challenge you to take action: whether that be by learning about a Black historical figure you have never heard of, a consequence of racism in society, or attending a meeting of Black Student Union (on Tuesdays and Thursdays,) recognizing the importance of Black people in our history and society is imperative to understanding the nation that we live in today.

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