February is Black History Month, but the acknowledgement of Black history should not end after Feb. 28. Black history deserves more recognition than acknowledgement for 28 or 29 days out of the 365 available. The process of educating ourselves on Black history and the structural racism inherent to American society should continue every day.
For many years, Black Lives Matter has been raising awareness about police brutality against African Americans and calling for the defunding of the police. Following this movement’s growth in 2020, Americans had no excuse to deny the tragedy taking place in their own backyard. Since then, Americans have begun to educate themselves on the systemic racism and bias that affects people of color every day of their lives.
Through the work of these activists, many white people have worked on educating their ignorance and repairing the systemic bias in their own lives. At Berry on Feb. 22, Ibram X. Kendi spoke in his lecture “How to Be an Antiracist.” As part of the lecture, Kendi spoke about white people who are now comfortable around Black, Indigenous and people of color. Yet, nonetheless, much of the work in educating people about racism and racial history falls on Black people.
According to Kendi’s lecture, people of color can face burnout as they educate the people surrounding them. Serving in a leadership capacity to the community around them, people of color can become exhausted with the constant process of educating those around them to their struggles. However, the process of learning about Black history never stops, Kendi said.
The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) announced the theme for Black History Month 2021 as “The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity.” This theme focuses on the African American diaspora and the spread of African American families throughout the United States. The theme of the Black family allows the recognition of all types of Black families from African Americans to Afro-Hispanic Americans as well as Black LGBTQ+ individuals.
The Student Diversity Initiatives (SDI) office and other offices like the Berry Center for Integrity in Leadership (BCIL) and the Counseling Center worked throughout the month of February to provide learning opportunities for students, faculty and staff on these subjects, including Kendi’s lecture, the African American Read-In and Community Conversation about mental health in Black, Indigenous and people of color communities. Now that the month is over, we all must take an individual responsibility to continue learning.
As Americans, we have a duty to be educated about the world we live in. People of color are an essential part of American history, and we should learn about all peoples’ histories. When discussing historical racism, do not just brush over the topic. Figure out why the topics cause discomfort and work on resolving that discomfort with the people around you. Just like any other learning, white people have to work against their inherent biases every day. Becoming stagnant in an ever-changing world can create more issues.
Learning about Black history must be done in a way that highlights the perspective of Black people within the narrative. The main issue with learning about Black history in schools today is that it is taught from a white perspective, according to USA Today. History textbooks can present a history that has been whitewashed, and the history taught to students will not tell the stark reality of the struggles of Black, Indigenous and people of color. It is important to not gloss over the difficult truths of Black history and teach it from an appropriate stance with an emphasis on the reality of that time. It is not pretty, but the truth never is. Teaching Black history requires a Black perspective, according to USA Today. Black History Month also should not be used as a tool to only promote the Black perspective during the month of February. The history of Black, Indigenous and people of color should be taught throughout the curriculum in a way that is in depth and accurate.
Berry as an institution also has a responsibility to continue to educate administration, diversify faculty and provide diverse opportunities for racial minorities within our community. With administration as an example, students can have trusted individuals to have the difficult conversations with.
As Kendi pointed out in his challenge to Berry at the end of his lecture, becoming an antiracist is a generational change, and we have to continue fighting for it, even if it isn’t Black History Month.
“Why can’t it be our generation?” Kendi said.