Whitman Wire

Black History Month

Rina Cakrani, Columnist

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The reason why I wanted to write on this topic is because of the fact that the majority of students on campus do not know that February is Black History Month. I don’t know whether it is because of ignorance or because of conscious negligence, but I wanted to bring more attention to it since it is the only period of the year in which Black people get more exposure and are celebrated to a slightly higher degree than other periods.

The first reason why everyone should know and acknowledge this month is because United States was built upon the labor and suffering of Black people. The impact should be part of the collective consciousness. Unlike what they teach in history books, the wealth produced by their labor was the engine that pushed the U.S. rise to global economic dominance. Although it is often preferred to separate the slavery issue with America’s prosperity, the truth is that the slave trade was not merely a side story in the history of slavery in the United States–it was crucial to its modernization and continuation. Many people like to address the Founding Fathers or other white male figures as the founders of America, but credit should be given to the part of the population that actually spurred the country’s economic potential (who continue not to see any the benefits from that).

Putting importance upon this month will also help to shed light on many Black figures that have been prominent and have contributed a tremendous amount to American society. Since the media constantly associates incarceration rates, drug related crimes and poverty to the African American community, reinforcing the stereotypes and unfair assumptions about the culture in general, this month can be utilized as a way to understand and learn more about the impact that so many Black figures have given in arts, culture and academia. Many of the historical events that were initiated by Black people have been appropriated and white-washed so that only those that educate themselves on these issues get at the truth to know about them.

Considering the current political condition in the United States and the fact that the post-racial society has proven to be a myth, it is important to look at the past in order to understand the future. In a society in which systematic institutionalized racism operates on a daily basis and police brutality still takes place at high rates particularly among African American communities, one should look at the long history of these existing institutions and realize how they have been perpetuated. Many would argue that since African Americans are integral part of the country, their history should not be singled out to one month out of twelve.

However, the truth is that centering it in a particular month will emphasize the truths that make many Americans uncomfortable, but that need to be told nonetheless. A reality check is needed and this month can provide it. Many students on campus feel uncomfortable when being faced with issues like this, but it is necessary not only because they are in a liberal arts setting where they are supposed to be challenged, but also because learning about this month and actively recognizing it is the first step in dismantling the system of inequality.

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Black History Month