Opinion

Why we need Black History Month

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By Tyler Owen

Every February my Facebook and Twitter feeds are flooded with a plethora of inspirational quotes photoshopped onto images of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.

But about two years ago, a new image began to pop up. Superimposed, the image features Morgan Freeman and is typically accompanied by a summarized transcript from an interview the actor gave to Mike Wallace of CBS’ “60 Minutes,” back in 2005.

If you live under a dark, dark rock and somehow don’t know what I’m talking about, in the interview, Freeman asserts that Black History Month is “ridiculous,” and when Wallace asks how Freeman propose society rid itself of racism, he responded, “Stop talking about it. I’m going to stop calling you a white man. And I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man.”

Color-blindness is a wonderfully idealistic, naïve strategy in regards to race relations in the United States. Its proponents staunchly argue that if we could all, oh so simply, forget centuries of institutionalized racism and not see the color of each other’s skin, then we would all be treated equally and with the flick of a wrist, all of our problems could be solved. Because ‘All Lives Matter’, right? Wrong.

The fact of it is that all lives do not matter, at least not equally. They never have in America. A lot of people think that because slavery is abolished, because black men (and women) can vote, and because Jim Crow laws have been eradicated, that we live in a post-racial society.

I would wager that the parents of Tamir Rice; the people of Ferguson, MO.; the wife and children of Eric Garner, would all beg to differ. Black lives do not matter, at least not as much as white lives.

These major news stories are low-hanging fruit; let’s look at something a little higher up. In 2010, black men were six times as likely as white men to be incarcerated, according to the Pew Research Center. The Human Rights Watch says that black adult males are arrested on drug charges 2.5 times more often than White adult males, despite 77 percent of the 22 million habitual drug users in America being white males. And the systematization of this racism does not just persist within our prison system; 35 percent of black children grades 7-12 have been suspended or expelled from school at some point, compared to only 15 percent of white children (NAACP).

This is simply the tip of the iceberg. This society does not value black lives as much as it does white lives, and this is why we absolutely cannot pretend that we do not see the color of each other’s skin. This is why Black History Month is important.

We need to remember the centuries of injustices committed by whites against blacks. We need to actively discuss what happened, why it happened, and why it was wrong; because we need to make sure we do not repeat history. We need to celebrate the progress that has been made, and the sacrifices that were made to achieve it. We need Black History Month.

This article originally appeared on SirelleCarter.com

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