As I write this, I’m imagining one of my black friends standing over my shoulders. Would I say everything that I’m about to say here in front of him?
The answer is yes.
We ended up in the same neighborhood, but our upbringings couldn’t be any more different. Why? Because racism is still a huge issue in America, and Black History Month is a sugar pill, not a remedy.
In 1926, Dr. Carter Woodson and Minister Jesse Moorland of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History sponsored Negro History Week, celebrated during the second week of February to coincide with Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays.
Negro History Week evolved into Black History Month on college campuses during the 1960s and was officially recognized by President Gerald Ford in 1976 to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
I probably taught you more about black history in those two paragraphs than your primary school ever did in 13 years combined. And what a shame, because that’s the whole point of Black History Month: to educate the masses about the experiences and culture of black Americans.
Stereotypes and phobias cloud our everyday thoughts causing us to act unfairly. Donald Trump is practically running his entire campaign by tapping into peoples’ fear of their fellow man. The fact is that we fear what we don’t know. And we don’t know anything about black history.
If only we learned about more members who made strides in the black community, then we could build bridges rather than burn them down. When schools do make an effort to teach kids about black history, the students are shown the same history-makers: Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, W.E.B. DuBois and Malcolm X.
But it’s not like schools even make time for Black History Month anyways. Southwest Middle School of Orange County encourages its teachers to “incorporate activities, when appropriate, in your curriculum throughout the month.” However, it is now often is the case that schools will just have one-off events afterhours, such as Rosemont Elementary’s Black History Month celebration through song and dance.
Look at how easily a situation like Michael Brown tore apart our nation. Without question, black people knew what Ferguson was about, while white people stood around perplexed or offered their judgments about a struggle they’ve never had to fight.
Those same people who fancy themselves enough to say racism is no longer an issue in America are probably the same people who’d think twice about opening the door to a black man they don’t recognize.
Unfortunately, we haven’t made much progress despite the efforts of a great many.
It’s time the educators of America gives black history the justice it deserves, for all of America’s sake.
Marissa Mahoney is a contributing columnist for the Central Florida Future.