Last updated on March 5, 2021
In 1915, more than 100 years ago, Slavery was abolished. In 1926, Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). In 1926, the group sponsored an organized a National Negro History Week, on the second week of every February. This is because it is the birthday of Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass.
According to the United States Census Bureau, there were approximately 41.99 million African American’s living in the United States in the year 2019. In 2019, 235 Black Americans were shot dead by police, only second to white Americans—there were about 370 white deaths due to the police in the same year (NAACP). This may seem unjust towards white Americans, but there are 4 times more white people in America than Black people. If the statistics held true, and if the Black population was equal to the white population in the US, there would be over 900 police related deaths to Black Americans across the country each year.
Black History Month is celebrated in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and the Netherlands, though in Europe it is celebrated in October. Understanding the roots of Black people, and what they have so far accomplished is crucial to understanding how the world works. Less than 75 years ago, segregation was a big part of life not just in the US, but around the world. There are now 13 Black billionaires on Forbes alone.
Black History Month has been the same for a long time. Most teachers, bosses, etc. will talk about a Black person who has worked in their field of work, and then most people won’t talk about it the rest of the month. They may have work or presentations that they find more important, but especially now there is no excuse for not mentioning this month. In public school, it has never been mandatory to mention Black History Month. Seattle Public Schools are now making Black History a mandatory part of curriculum from K-5. Seattle is also one of the most liberal cities in America, making the probability that other cities or counties include it in their curriculum low.
At Northwest, we supposedly take pride in our diversity, our intersectionality, and our learning curriculum to include BIPOC history. Northwest has certainly overstated the amount of diversity over the years, and it is crucial to know and hold ourselves accountable for our mistakes. Seattle is a very non-diverse city compared to the rest of the country, and Northwest School’s students and faculty certainly represent the whiteness of our city. We are not the most diverse school in the city, but we have a very liberal curriculum. At Northwest, we are taught about Black history, Latin history, and histories of many other cultures. For classes that don’t yet cover these subjects, the school is actively trying to work it into the curriculum. What matters is that Northwest is trying to get better and trying to learn from past mistakes. This is a step forward.
For this article, I had emailed a couple Black students about what BHM meant to them, so I decided to ask my parents too. My mom is a white woman, and my dad is a Black man. My mom was born in a poor white neighborhood in Boston, and went to a majority-Black school. My dad was born in a poor neighborhood in New York, illegally because his parents were not the same race. Said my mom about Black History Month: “It’s a big time to focus on the accomplishments of Black people, although it should be incorporated into all history.” I asked her what she felt about going to a Black school in a time of racism, heightened especially in Boston. “I guess I was young, and I didn’t understand why everyone was so angry with me going to a Black school, none of the kids knew what it meant. I would have felt safe, if it weren’t for the racists in the neighborhoods.”
I never truly understood what my parents really went through. My version of racism that I faced was a lot different than what my parents went through. When I was younger, I never understood race. I just knew that one of my cousins was Black, and the other ones were white. I never understood the cultural differences, the privilege I had compared to my Black cousin, or the privilege over us that my white cousins had. Racism was made up by white adults and has been carried down by people for millions of years. There is no inherent difference between Black people and white people. White people created race as a way of justifying slavery and dehumanization.
I am now older, and I have lived for a good amount of time to appreciate Black History Month, and what it means to have enslaved ancestors. Black History Month is a time of self-reflection. It is a time to think about people who struggle daily, simply for the physical attribute that no-one chooses. We reflect how far we have come, and how much further we must go. We spend this time educating each other on how to treat people, and how to behave with common decency with everybody. It took me a long time to appreciate my family, and to appreciate the way I was born. All we must do to change the world is to have the common notion that all humans are humans. We will never be able to change the past of the world, or to change the color of our skin, but we can move forward. We learn from past mistakes, to make the world a place where everyone wants to live in. Black Lives Matter.