Historically, African Americans have been the target of severe oppression in the United States. From slavery to segregation to forced sterilization and Jim crow, African Americans have faced many violent acts of oppression over the span of a couple hundred years.
These acts called for many acts of black resistance in the U.S. over the years and hold great significance. Countries like Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States, remember these acts through Black History Month.
Black History Month was first proposed by African American Professors and the Black United Students at Kent State University in February 1969. The first celebration of Black History Month took place at Kent State one year later, from January 2, 1970 to February 28, 1970. It was recognized in 1976 by President Gerald Ford who urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history”.
Even with all the acts of resistance and the acknowledgement of Black History Month, there are still numerous problems that people of color face today. Stories are heard left and right of police killing unarmed black youth and unfair stereotyping of African Americans in simple places like grocery stores.
Deandre Lewis, a sophomore at San Francisco State University, talked about a time where he was shopping for clothes in the mall.
” I was done shopping and was gon’ get some food and I got stopped. I was like what the hell goin on. The security guard stopped me and asked to see my receipts for my stuff. I asked why he needed to, that I bought all em’ clothes. But he still told me to show him them receipts. I wasn’t really trippin cuz I didn’t steal nun’ but it still wasn’t right. “
There is also a large amount of African Americans affected by voter disenfranchisement laws.
Shannon Abdul, 47 year old mother of 4 and a ex-convicted felon, does not have the right to vote in the state of Louisiana because of her status as a ex-convict.
” It is really unfortunate. I couldn’t vote in the last presidential election just like many other people in the U.S. and look what happened. I just wish the laws were easier on people like me. ”
In the 2016 election, six million people could not vote due to voter disenfranchisement laws.
Felon disenfranchisement has a significantly disproportionate effect on black people. One in 13 black Americans do not have the right to vote because of past convictions. This is four times the rate of any other American groups.
The disproportionate amount of black people that are disenfranchised is rooted in systemic racism that goes back to the Reconstruction Era. Many states did not allow black people to vote. This was true until the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendment which “ended” slavery, except for people in prison, gave citizenship to everyone born in the U.S., and gave black men the right to vote. Though those rights were in place, some states passed laws that targeted crimes that were more often committed by black people, and did not include crimes committed more often by white people.
Today, the effects of these laws show in the current disenfranchisement demographics in which black people make up 38 percent of Americans who have been stripped of their voting rights. That is a crazy number when you take into account that they make up only 13 percent of the country’s population.
It’s problems like racial profiling and disenfranchisement laws that stress the importance of Black History Month and black resistance. It is problems like these that call for change and more resistance to the oppression of people of color.
With hundreds of years of oppression in America’s history, we have still got ways to go to ensure equality and equity within all the different identities.
In short, Black History Month is an important month but it is still not enough. African Americans still continuously face oppression but with resistance from the people, we can work towards true equality.