Why Black History Month Is Not The Answer To US Race Relations Issues
When all cultures' histories are truly and fairly embraced, and the accomplishments of even the most marginalized ones are regarded equally alongside those that have always dominated, a level of societal maturity will be within reach.
Then, the need for a month-long societal reflection and cultural celebration of black history will not be necessary.
However, until the nation reaches that point of deep cultural awareness and mutual respect, the importance to annually celebrate and publicize the individual identity, heritage and pride of a marginalized minority will continue to be necessary.
It will be a vital step toward the establishment of a fairer, more equitable society.
The modern-day inequalities, which are much subtler than their historical Jim-Crow-era counterparts, are so effortlessly woven into our subconscious systems of education, work and personal lives that the dangers now lay in the subtleties of injustice.
As opposed to the intense, overt hatred that once rallied a point for Civil Rights activists to focus their revolutionary efforts, the socioeconomic gap between the affluent racial majority and the marginalized minority has greatly decreased.
However, it has introduced a new danger: A camouflaged struggle.
The line of reasoning behind the argument against Black History Month is that a celebration spanning 28 days a year cannot possibly do hundreds of years of rich history any justice.
It relegates the importance of persecuted groups' struggles to only a twelfth of a year.
The existence of a Black History Month cannot plausibly do anything to improve race relations in white-dominated societies.
However, because modern race relations in the current sociopolitical climate are unequal, the role of a Black History Month is essential in highlighting a social struggle with issues as real as segregation, but nowhere near as tangible.
After 400 years of oppression, tragedies that occurred during the Civil Rights Movement — like the murder of many innocent people and the acquittals of their guilty murderers — were commonplace in an era of accepted racism.
But unfortunately, the tragedies continue to exist today.
The 1955 brutal murder of innocent African American teenager Emmett Till for allegedly whistling at a white woman was alluded to in the wake of Michael Brown's 2014 murder.
A police officer, who was acquitted without sentencing, killed Brown for walking in the middle of the street.
Unfortunately, Brown and Till are only two members of a large group that also includes Eric Garner, who was choked to death by a policeman, and Trayvon Martin, who was shot by a self-proclaimed neighborhood watchman on his way home from the corner store.
Some of the most dangerous aspects of the inherent disparities in this modern-day racial society are those that are more difficult to quantify. Sixty years ago, there were clear legal milestones that allowed the public to measure progress.
The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 freed the slaves, 1954's Brown v. Board of Education ruled racial segregation in public schools violated the US constitution, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 granted full political equality for African Americans and, finally, in 1965, the Voting Rights Act overcame legal barriers that prevented African Americans from their right to vote.
Today, however, the barriers to freedom are significantly subtler.
According to a 2013 US Census, US schools that have the highest percentage of black and Latino students do not offer Algebra II, and a third of these schools do not offer chemistry.
The public school system very clearly depicts the institutionalized disparity of racial treatment, as black and Latino students account for 40 percent of enrollment in schools with gifted programs, but only represent 26 percent of these students are chosen to participate in advanced courses.
The way children are treated in schools hugely affects their relationships with education into the future.
In 2013, 19.3 percent of African Americans over the age of 25 had a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to the much greater national average of 30 percent.
Modern day racism may be unintentional, but by no means is it any less damaging. While race still evidently plays a major role in education, education also plays a role in the class system.
The median income of black households in 2013 was $34,598, compared to a national average of $51,939.
Shockingly, compared to a 14.5 percent national average of people who live below the poverty line, those who identified as African American represented a hugely increased 27.2 percent of people.
Because this social struggle is no longer in a state of revolution, today's inequalities have no way to receive the same level of publicity or support, and by the same token, the accomplishments of this underrepresented group don't see the same level of celebration or collective pride as is deserved.
The opportunity to highlight the many accomplishments and conquered racial boundaries during annually sanctioned time periods is an opportunity to recognize how far society has developed and how far it still needs to evolve.
Across the US, Canada and the UK, the month is used to reflect the Jim Crow hangover in an effort to ensure that the struggle to reform and improve race relations does not fade.
While admittedly, in a perfect world, there would be no need to relegate an entire sub-culture's history to a month, it would be optimistic to think that it is not needed at this time.
As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
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