YOUNG VOICES: Why we still need Black History Month (and more)

2013-02-25T00:00:00Z YOUNG VOICES: Why we still need Black History Month (and more)By Briana Petty nwitimes.com
February 25, 2013 12:00 am  • 

It’s that time of year again. Black History Month -- when schools across America adorn their hallways with African-American icons and Civil Rights champions. When classrooms discuss Martin Luther King’s powerful “I Have a Dream” speech and appreciate the courage of Rosa Parks and others.

While these activities are educational and well-intentioned, they are not enough. There is less time and effort put into discussing other aspects of African-American history in this country such as the race riots, the Black Panther party, modern-day segregation and the phenomenon of white flight.

While these ideas are difficult and uncomfortable to discuss, I believe it’s better to recognize how racism still affects our country today rather than to ignore it.

Many people are satisfied with the notion that because the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination, it therefore doesn't exist in our society. Some even believe Black History Month itself is no longer necessary. Until we have more African Americans designing curriculum and writing history books themselves, Black History Month will always be needed.

However, informing people of our nation’s history and prejudice is a big responsibility and it cannot rest solely with the education system. Educators must follow a curriculum and have only a certain amount of time to discuss Black History Month.

If we are to truly push for change and work to combat the racism that still exists today, we must combat it in every facet and do so around the clock.

This means increased diversity in all professions and institutions that shape the future of this country. Until the status quo is significantly disturbed, the history books, news broadcasts, government policies, and everything else, will remain the same. Yes, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a proud moment from our nation, but that does not mean our job is over. It is up to us to acknowledge where we as a nation have fallen short on our promises and try to change that.

At Indiana University Bloomington, the proportion of African-American students has stayed roughly at 4 percent since the 1970s (even though the administration had promised to double that number by this point). Students still have not been given an answer as to why this promise hasn't been fulfilled.

Prejudice is still alive and well but, as the demographics of our nation change, minorities will become the majority. But until then, we still need Black History month and more.

As individuals and as a nation can and should work toward writing new history. We all have the power to challenge inequality in our personal lives and communities.

Briana Petty of Valparaiso is a junior at Indiana University in Bloomington. The opinions are the writer's.

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