By: Nicole Lashomb, Editor-in-Chief–
February kicks off Black History Month, a month designated to pay tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society.
Although the historical context of this month goes back decades and has evolved with time, “The Black Awakening” of the 1960’s not only raised the consciousness of African Americans about the significance of black history and the Civil Rights movement, it also forced all Americans to acknowledge the contributions of African Americans to our history and culture.
According to the Library of Congress, the once weekly celebration was expanded to a month in 1976. “President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to ‘seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.’ That year, fifty years after the first celebration, the association held the first African American History Month. Since then each American president has issued African American History Month proclamations,” it stated online at http://1.usa.gov/7oIw4I.
However, the undeniable significance of the month is overshadowed by the pervasive and shameful attitudes of anti-black sentiment, still decades later. According to an article published by USA Today in 2012 regarding race and the election, (http://usat.ly/VQAkGF), nearly half of all Americans still expressed prejudice against the Black community. Similar findings were comparable to the Hispanic community as well. The data was gathered from surveys conducted with researchers from Stanford University, the University of Michigan and NORC at the University of Chicago. This same survey concluded that President Obama could have lost up to 5 percentage points in the then upcoming election simply because he was Black. Thankfully, even with that possibility, he prevailed.
It is not enough to simply “celebrate” Black History month. It is imperative to stand by our LGBTQA brothers and sisters in their fight for continued freedom―freedom from erred bigoted, racist and learned cultural norms passed down from generation to generation. The fact that anti-black sentiment actually grew from 2008 to the present, reflecting the time period that President Obama was in office, is proof that racist attitudes are often depicted when the under-represented group is gaining “power” and the majority feels threatened, a notion I will never understand. It makes me ashamed of my Caucasian counterparts who have allowed themselves to be caught up in this “malarkey.” I’ve always said that my soul does not match the color of my privileged skin.
The American Psychological Association (APA) attempts to explain why racism manifests itself. “Racism in all its horrific forms is transmitted across generations and is manifested in individual behaviors, institutional norms and practices, and cultural values and patterns. Racism serves simultaneously both to rationalize the hierarchical domination of one racial or ethnic group over other group(s), and maintain psychological, social and material advantages for the dominant group,” read a statement published at http://bit.ly/11DZg1u. Again, it is about power and clearly, that power is being highly disrupted. The backlash of such a shift is obvious when any minority group makes strides. Think about all of the nuts coming out of the woodwork regarding LGBT rights alone, and then compound that with racial and ethnic discrimination.
As the APA stated, “both active racism and passive acceptance of race-based privilege disrupt the mental health and psychological functioning of both victims and perpetrators of racial injustice.” Whether like me, you have race-based privileged or not, we all have a duty to stand with each other, learn from other’s experiences, and listen for the irrefutable truth that Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed. I too have a dream that “one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’”
*Nicole Lashomb is TRT’s Editor-in-Chief. She holds an MBA from Marylhurst University and a Bachelors from SUNY Potsdam. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.