For me, days or weeks or months that are dedicated to certain causes serve as reminders about our collective experience—and as platforms for progress as we move forward. Black History Month reminds me not only about the injustices of the past, but serves as a bellwether for where we stand now, and where we collectively still need to go. Here are five things I was reminded of during Black History Month and what I am doing about it.
5 Things I Learned During Black History Month and What I’m Doing About It
Black History Month reminds me not only about the injustices of the past, but serves as a bellwether for where we stand now.
Every year, Black History Month reminds me that we continue to evolve with respect to the way we collectively treat people of color, both explicitly and implicitly. My goal is to keep these things in mind continuously, and not just during one month of the year. And while we should all celebrate Black History as American History each and every day of the year, we haven’t yet come far enough as a nation to do that, unfortunately.
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Black Lives Matter. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear that phrase? For many of us, whatever feeling it evokes, it’s strong. But this is not a competition between African-Americans and law enforcement or anyone else. All of us should be treating everyone else with objectivity, dignity, and respect every single day because all lives matter.
Incarceration in this country is out of control. According to the latest World Prison Population List, the United States represents about 4.4 percent of the world population, while it houses around 22 percent of the world’s prisoners. Some have called it the civil rights issue of the 21st century and, unfortunately, that’s not an understatement based on the disproportionate rate of incarceration imposed on African-Americans.
Are we mindful about our biases? We may not outwardly offend people of color on a regular basis as frequently as we did fifty years ago. But when I hear about the quiet struggles that my black friends face, like the difficulty they have in simply being able to hail a cab in New York City or the quizzical looks on students’ faces they get on the first day of class they are teaching at the local college, I wonder how far we’ve really come, and I pledge to do more to help end it.
Julian Francis Abele. How many of you have heard of him? I hadn’t until I read an article about him a few weeks ago during Black History Month. He was a prominent African-American architect who contributed to the design of more than 400 buildings and was the primary designer of the west campus of Duke University during the first half of the 20th century. Yet, racial tensions deterred him from visiting the campus. How sad. Perhaps we should all take some time to raise our consciousness and learn about the contributions of African-Americans that have been all but lost in the advancement of this great country during times of outright prejudice and discrimination. They have fought with us side by side in our wars. They have shed their blood, sweat, and tears helping to make this country what it is, and they are a major part of the fabric of what makes this nation great. Let’s afford them that credit, even while they are not asking for it, and celebrate the diversity we have in the melting pot of the world.
Tom Andriola advocates for adoptee rights and shares his personal experiences about being adopted and his successful, independent search for both biological parents. To see more of his writing, visit Tom's Facebook page.
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