The Collegian
Wednesday, September 27, 2023

We've got a long way to go: time to pick up the slack after Black History Month

As the month of February comes to an end, it is important that we don't lose the spirit that comes with Black History Month.

Carter G. Woodson and countless others fought for a way to formally recognize the progress and setback of the African-American struggle, and managed to create Black History Month. After all the strife and opposition Civil Rights leaders faced for the sake of an entire race, there is still much work to be done.

Slavery was outlawed in 1865 and voting rights were given to blacks during the 1960s, but even decades later, racial injustice is ever so present. In 2006, six black students from Jena High School in Louisiana (also known as the Jena Six) were convicted of attempted murder after getting into a schoolyard fight with a white student. The student they allegedly attempted to murder had contributed to the school's racially tense environment before the fight by helping to hang nooses from the student-designated "White Tree" a day after the Jena Six sat under it.

Also in 2006, Michael Richards, who played Kramer in the hit '90s sitcom "Seinfeld," resorted to racial slurs when an attendee of his comedy show at "The Laugh Factory" in Hollywood showed disapproval for his routine. Richards exclaimed: "Throw his ass out. He's a nigger!" Let's not forget that it was just during the spring of 2008 that someone hung a black doll from a noose in the Cousins Studio Theatre here on campus.

In this day and age, the issue of racial inequality can never stray too far from my mind; the concept and its presence are constantly reinforced. When I am followed in a department store because I am assumed to be a criminal, I think about it. When a sales clerk badgers me into leaving my items up front at the desk — supposedly for my convenience, but really to ensure that my black, sticky hands don't steal — I think about it. I thought about it when my very own father was pulled over by police in the middle of the night, because a black man driving a foreign car gives probable cause for investigation.

It seems as if the present lies somewhere in between the rocky and destructive degradation of the past and the romanticized utopia we call the future that exists only in our dreams. This world is nowhere near perfect; but, the African-American community has a lot to be thankful for. We must be thankful that we are no longer considered animals, property or three-fifths of a person. We must be thankful that the ridiculous poll tests that kept us all ignorant for so long have been outlawed and that we now have a voice in government. We must be thankful that we can't legally be denied entrance into any public establishment because of the color of our skin.

In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." Please, don't let your acknowledgement of the black struggle end once March comes. There's much work to be done if nooses are being hanged and public figures are attacking people with racial epithets in this day and age. Woodson, King and countless others sacrificed their lives for us. Now it's time for us to pick up the slack.

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