By Ashani Williams || Layout Assistant
“We need a longer month.”
When the iconic Whitney Houston was asked in an interview what Black History Month means to her, she replied with this very accurate statement.
Stuck with the shortest month of the year this answer is common amongst the Black community. America uses Black History Month, as a lazy way to sweep the ongoing “Black problem” under the rug. But we still strive to use this month to celebrate our beautiful melanin skin and highlight our constant success and rich culture.
Usually, when we learn about Black history in America, we’re given black and white images of Martin Luther King Jr, painting an easy picture depicting a start and finish to the civil rights struggle in America. This helps America create a “then vs now” or “past vs present” argument, but trust me it wasn’t that long ago. I can say that with certainty because we still live in an oppressive society that thrives off of the failure of my people.
As a Black girl who attended a Predominantly White Institution prior to F&M or even just a Black girl in America, I had to learn the importance of Black History Month from a very young age. In high school, the start of our Black Student Union was met with aggravation; a group of white students questioned the necessity of the club and further inquired why they couldn’t have a “white student union.” The audacity! The entire school was already a “white student union.” They weren’t the ones that needed a safe space. The small minority of Black students needed one. Not only did these students not understand having such a small community of people who looked like you in school but they decided to counteract our discomfort with more “subtle” oppression.
This selfish and racist act I experienced in high school represents the epitome of America. Just by asking that ignorant question, I was able to witness the privilege and naiveness white children, and people, are allowed; white people are able to switch the channel when things get a little too gruesome with a Black man and the cops. Or turn away when they see store owners racially profiling Black women. Or question, why within their society, Black people need a union for themselves? White people have the privilege to remain blissfully ignorant. Black people aren’t granted this ignorance. From a young age, I had to learn about “American culture” and the role Black people played in it, and how I had to move in order to stay alive. We are then often countered with stereotypical tropes, brushing off my experience, like “the angry Black girl,” or “the race card.”
I cannot begin to explain the necessity of this month, and a longer month, so I just wish all Black people a Happy Black History Month! Everyone else, continue to educate yourselves about the role you play in racism in America and ask the daily question, “how can I make a Black person’s life easier today?” To my fellow Black people, keep showing off your immense Beauty and culture. Stay Black!
Junior Ashani Williams is a layout assistant. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.