HATTIE O’HARA – Guest Columnist
As Americans, we dream of a country of equality. We take pride in our humble beginnings and bask in how far we have come. Our minds are engrained from a young age with words like “slavery” and “segregation” so that we may know our past in its entirety. As Americans, we dream of a country of equality, but then February comes around.
Every February, we celebrate Black History Month. It is advertised as an allotted month for Americans to remember important people and events in African-American culture. There are special television programs, luncheons and even an annual Black History Month Parade in Atlanta, all to inspire us to think fondly on the progress that has been made within our borders and around the world. However, by creating a month such as this, we are defeating the purpose of the month entirely.
In order to be an equal society, there can be no Black History Month. To gain sea-to-shining-sea freedom, we must stop endorsing race-specific parades, holidays and organizations. For the country to be truly desegregated, we must stop being the ones to draw the lines between our own people. Instead of celebrating Black History Month, why can’t we use every month to celebrate American history? Instead of having African-Americans, why can’t we just be people?
What if the school children learning about black history for the first time this February never heard about the word “segregation”? Would they still know to exclude kids that look different on the playground? What if teachers, instead of focusing on educating their students about the equality of skin color, focused on the equality of all people, no matter the race, religion, gender or social class?
As Americans, dreaming of equality, we must first ask ourselves, what we are truly longing for—equality or justice? By creating a month exclusively exalting black history, are we genuinely trying to promote an equal nation, or are we, as Americans, repaying the debts that we feel we owe to the ancestors of the African-Americans alive today?
If it is equality that we are striving for, how is glorifying one culture going to accomplish that dream? Civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. fought for a nation where every citizen would be equal, emphasizing the importance of no race being put above another—not even their own.
Equality is something that the United States has been working toward since we first struggled for our own independence. Since then we have fought and will continue to fight for equality for everyone who calls this land home. Our country has taken great strides in granting the same liberties to each of its citizens, but there are still steps to be taken until we can truly call ourselves equal.
The day when race is such an insignificant trait that there is no need for a month to draw attention to it is the day we are free.