Our Voice: Black History Month begins with education

Black History Month is supposed to be a time to honor Black historical figures and remember their struggles and triumphs. Unfortunately, remembrance cannot always be carried out as many are not taught adequate Black history to begin with.

For many public school students in America, their knowledge of Black history does not go much further than slavery and Martin Luther King Jr. According to Ken Miller and Michael Melia of AP News, there is no national curriculum or standardization of Black history in America, and only a few states require it to be taught. 

This lack of standardization can lead to some receiving inadequate education, which leaves many uninformed or misinformed.

In some states, education about Black history is even legislatively restricted. Although Florida is one of the states that requires Black history to be taught, Governor DeSantis’s “Stop WOKE” act prevents certain topics involving white privilege and systemic racial disadvantages from being taught, claiming that it will be harmful for adolescents. 

Other states like Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma and more have passed similar legislation regulating how teachers can talk about race and systemic issues. Censorship of speech and education based on personal beliefs is wrong, undemocratic and unconstitutional. 

Further, learning about these subjects, although difficult and sometimes uncomfortable, is necessary if we want to perceive our history and modern reality in an honest way. Systemic oppression has been an unfortunate reality for many Black people throughout history, especially in the criminal justice system. 

In the 19th century, Black Codes reinforced exploitation of Black labor after slavery and restricted their rights to property. In the 20th century, Jim Crow laws mandated segregation in all public facilities and Black people were disproportionately murdered and brutally attacked by police. In the 21st century, Black people are still twice as likely as white people to be shot and killed by police officers, according to NBC News. 

The evidence is clear that Black people are—and have always been—treated differently and unfairly in the justice system. Ignoring the issue does not make the issue less real. Intentional censorship of race history prevents many from receiving the necessary context to understand hardships and rectify inequalities in the nation. 

Empathy and justice are impossible without accurate understanding and abolition of potential prejudices. Taking the time to learn and reflect on accurate Black history can help alleviate misunderstandings today to make tomorrow a better future. 

Black History Month is not all about the negatives though. It is equally important—if not, more so—to learn of Black triumphs and successes. Success stories grant us with hope that things can change for the better. We must celebrate all the heroes that allowed for such progress.

The future generation has a right to know, and Black historical figures have a right to be remembered. Until adequate education in K-12 schools becomes a widespread reality, there are luckily ways we can take initiative to learn more about Black history. 

We encourage Wilkes students to attend events hosted by the Multicultural Student Coalition or the Sordoni Art Gallery to expand their knowledge. There is no better time than during Black History Month to continue learning. 

Black history is American history. We must treat it as such.