The Howler

Why do we need Black History Month?

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With all the progress we have had in creating an inclusive country, we should continue to honor the achievements that paved the way for future generations.

Black History Month was started by a group of Kent State students in 1970 to highlight the achievements of African Americans who are often minimized. I remember being amazed at the inventions of Frederick Douglass and the wealth of Madam CJ Walker in elementary school, even though I had never met a black scientist or millionaire, I knew that it was possible to be either or both. The progressions of our society have allowed us to see greater representation in the black community, but this progress is not to be mistaken for true equality. Many ask why we still need Black History Month with all of the progress we have had in creating equality for all minorities. The answer lies in our political and social climate.

When people ask why we still need a month dedicated to Black History Month post-slavery and post-Jim Crow, it is important to address that these problems never truly went away. The school-to-prison pipeline has taken the place of slavery. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the acceptance of zero-tolerance policies makes students of color receive major consequences, like jail time, for minor infractions in school. The social and economic isolation of black Americans still persists today. According to the Centers for American Progress, laws for fair housing aren’t often effective. While acknowledging the progress that we have made, it’s important not to forget how far we have to go in the journey towards equality. Issues such as police brutality and racial discrimination in jobs, housing, and even classrooms are brought to light during Black History Month. We also get to take a break from the negative outlook constantly given to African Americans.

When I first went to public school, I quickly learned that white was thought to be superior to any other race. We soon associate that “talking white” is to talk proper and “acting black” is to act bad or thuggish.

This dichotomy of black and white caused me, like many of my other peers of color, to struggle with identity and self-esteem because of our race and socioeconomic status”

. Black History Month allows us to embrace our own blackness and wear it with pride. During Black History Month, we recognize the struggles and triumphs of African Americans because of the lack of positive African American success in the media. We all know names like Oprah, Kobe Bryant, and the former President of the United States, but it’s much harder for us to name a living black scientist, researcher, painter, or poet. The default in our society is white, and we are able to see white success in every area, but black success is tucked away and often claimed as white success if it ever gets to light. According to The Conversation, during slavery, a black inventor named Ned created a better version of the cotton scraper. His master’s Oscar Stewart patented it and made a significant amount of money which Ned never received. A culture of white people taking credit for black inventions followed. During Black History Month, we give light to all of the black brilliance in our country that has greatly improved our country. By celebrating Black History Month, we can continue to give hope to future black American children.

At the age of 7, I decided I wanted to be a doctor. At the age of 8, I wondered if I was capable of such a thing. I had never met a black doctor until I was 16, and until then, I adored the only black doctor I knew of,  Ben Carson. The heritage of black children, in the history books, starts at slavery and ends at the Civil Rights Movement. They need to know that success is not only the freedom from slavery or oppression but the ability to follow their dreams. We celebrate Black History so black children will never have to search for a person that looks like them doing what they want to do. We celebrate Black History to thank our ancestors for all they’ve survived and give us strength for what we may have to survive. We celebrate Black History Month, so black girls at the age of 8 don’t ever have to wonder if they can be doctors and can step into every room wearing their blackness with pride.

So we return to the question of why we need Black History Month. The truth is that we need it for black people. We need black people to understand that they can be successful. That they built this country alongside other minorities and will continue to build it up.


Your turn: Who is the most influential African-American in your life?

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The Voice of Wakefield High School
Why do we need Black History Month?