Today marks the first day of Black History Month. Many of us can probably recall some type of special assembly or fun school projects from elementary school that taught us about why this month is important. Maybe we had a few days in history class or a special speaker that came during middle and high school. However, our attention has dwindled since then. As college students, if you aren’t a part of select clubs that make an effort to celebrate, the month seems to only be commemorated by tabling in the Krannert lobby, something on the Stall Wall and an email or two.
Despite Black History Month being a nationally-observed month, Berry seems to lack sufficient campus-wide acknowledgement of why the holiday is important or how students can celebrate it. Of course, Berry is not incredibly diverse, to say the least. It is not a secret that Berry is predominately white. Enrollment statistics show this very clearly. But this is no excuse for neglecting to celebrate the history of a large part of our nation and a portion of campus, even though it is not the majority.
Some may ask why it is necessary to have a Black History Month at all. This question is usually posed by someone who has been falsely made to believe that racial equality has been achieved in our country. This question blatantly ignores the lack of respect given during the rest of the year to the black men and women who helped to quite literally build our country.
Another common grievance about the month and its supporters is that it cultivates a culture which puts down one race to uphold another. Again, this mindset lacks the ability to understand that you can do one without the other. Just because we are celebrating black history doesn’t mean we are saying that white history does not matter.
America has a sad pattern of whitewashing our history. Many schools’ history curriculums are centered around the greatness of white men, diminishing the major contributions of any minority, including African Americans. We are slowly progressing, but have a long way to go before America gives credit where credit is long overdue.
Black History Month is meant to open our eyes to the reality of how our nation has developed and to remember those whose contributions have been forgotten or ignored. Attending an overwhelmingly white school does not mean we are excused from celebration or recognition of Black History Month.
Living in a community which can easily brush off the historical contributions of African Americans, we are tasked with observing and embracing the month with even more vigor and enthusiasm. We should request speakers. We should have forums. We should desire to know the true history of our nation, not the squeaky-clean version. We shouldn’t allow this month to go unmentioned. Take initiative this month to learn more every day about black history. Join in the discussion with your professors, classmates and friends about what Black History Month really means and how to celebrate it best.