Understand the past to understand the present

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

February 9, 2007 Ed Cartoon

Twenty-one years after its establishment, Black History Month is being celebrated across Canada and within Western.

Beyond recognizing famous black individuals in history, the month gives everyone a chance to decide how to appropriately commemorate their achievements.

Too often, the month turns into “Black Trivia Month”; individuals are bombarded with stand-alone facts and figures in black history, such as the date of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.

While remembering such events is crucial, it’s more important for people to ponder the events’ significance and evaluate how they shaped the present.

It’s therefore encouraging to see groups like the Black Students’ Association hosting speakers, such as Lawrence Hill, who engage students in both historical and contemporary black issues.

Black History Month also serves the dual purpose of learning about black individuals’ interpretations of their history and how they feel things have changed for better or worse.

It’s important for non-black students to listen to these perspectives and see how they differ from their own interpretations of history; doing so can clear any discrepancies in how events are remembered. With this spirit in mind, we had both black and white students write stories pertaining to black culture for this issue.

Beyond listening and evaluating history, people should realize covert racism toward black people still exists in North America. Many still only tolerate blacks, and haven’t accepted them as equal members of society.

There is, however, reason for optimism.

Recently, NFL coaches Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith were recognized for being the first black coaches to reach the Super Bowl, and Illinois Senator Barack Obama has made numerous headlines as the first black candidate to enter an American presidential race.

Hopefully, as North American society progresses to a greater state of equality, similar achievements in the future won’t have to stand out as “black achievements,” but will be judged on their own merit.

Whether you’re a history student or not, consider taking time this month to attend at least one event is taking place on campus or within the city celebrating Black History Month.

Only by educating ourselves can we keep breaking stereotypes and bring positive change in the future.

And hopefully as this happens, Black History Month will make itself unnecessary, as black history becomes acknowledged and recognized year-round and a specific month is no longer required to push it into our consciousness.

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