If not inclusive, black history month programs at U. are useless
What’s the point of Black History Month? What’s the point of a whole month to make the token black kids squirm through “I Have A Dream?” What’s the point of learning about the same roughly twenty abolitionists and civil rights leaders year, after year, after year. Why save it all for a specific month, making it essentially separate, but equal? The emphasis on specific black education and empowerment during Black History Month not only perpetuates the racial divide, but subliminally implies that this month is for blacks only. At the end of the day, we need it the least.
What is the point of Black History Month? To the black community at Rutgers, it’s kind of a big deal. It’s the one magical time of year where we each get out our nicest clothes, step on our soap boxes and attend event after event in the name of “black unity.” But if we see the same people at these banquets, date auctions and discussions, are we really accomplishing anything? The point of Black History month is not only to teach black people about their own history, but to teach everybody –– red, yellow, black and white –– about black history. These black unity events simply reverberate the same information all of us colored people have been hearing since birth, like, “We have to come together.” Black History Month is pointless if it does not reach out and partner with other organizations, departments and Greek life. For example, why hasn’t the Rutgers University Programming Association sponsored any black history month events at Rutgers? What about Hispanic heritage month and Asian heritage month? Why don’t any of the cultural sororities cosponsor events with the white-washed College Avenue Greek life? Delta Kappa Epsilon hung a confederate flag in their house this semester and nothing was done. Furthermore, why don’t all of the cultural organizations cosponsor events with each other? Unity inside a specific community is not unity, or “diversity” as the University likes to call it. It is simply segregation.
What is the point of Black History Month? It is a constant reminder that changes still need to be made. It is a reminder every year that we do not live in a completely post-racial society. I was ashamed and appalled at the student response to the Ferguson decision and the Eric Garner decision. While students of all races and ethnicities peacefully took to the streets to protest these decisions and show solidarity, their peers criticized them over social media. During one protest, one student posted, “I hope all these protestors on George street get stabbed, mugged, or raped next time they go out on college ave. Walking in the middle of George during rush hour screaming f--k the police is stupid as hell. Have fun with anarchy with no police.” While that post was certainly one of the most extreme, it is indicative of the state of student support and unity on campus. We come together for football games and parties but stand alone when it comes to issues that matter.
What has Black History Month accomplished? Instead of fighting together, we are in a constant, silent judgmental battle with our peers. Anyone can stand for things that affect them directly, but it takes a special kind of person to stand for things that may not do so. That is the type of unity and compassion we as a University need. At a school with 40,000 students, it is difficult but not impossible. Until then, Black History Month and any other cultural month at Rutgers will be useless.
Ijeoma Unachukwu is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in public health major with minors in global studies and biology.