As we celebrate BHM this year, we must acknowledge the steps it took to create social change, remember those who inspired them and work together to tackle racial inequality
Since 1976, Black History Month (BHM) has celebrated African-American heroes. Yet, the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement within the last year has pushed the topic of systemic racism to the forefront of people’s minds.
For one, the pandemic provided the opportunity for people to slow down and pay attention to what was happening around them in the world. The horrific murder of George Floyd opened the eyes of millions of people and called them to take action against systemic racism in a multitude of ways. The BLM protests in 2020, the largest in U.S. history, evidenced that the country needed to start making conscious strides towards reconciliation.
However, the presence of people from a multitude of ethnic backgrounds at the 2020 protests was a step in the right direction.
“I think this past year allowed many to learn more about the current state and history of our people,” said Azaria Wilson, a junior computer information system major at Azusa Pacific. “Some were even able to notice their faults and contributions towards racial injustice but gained a willingness to do better and learn.”
For centuries, America has celebrated BHM by honoring African American heroes that included Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman. In schools, teachers educate their students on the historical achievements of these heroes. However, the K-12 curriculum does not equip students with in-depth knowledge of what it is that those individuals fought for, as evidenced by a Time magazine article that was published in 2020.
In the article, journalist Olivia Waxman wrote that the K-12 curriculum “tip-toes” around the topic of racism in America. They also cite a 2018 survey by Southern Poverty Law Center which found that, “only 8% of high school seniors could identify slavery as the main cause of the Civil War.”
“The answer to why do white kids need black history is that it is history and it is their shared history too,” said Ursula Wolfe-Rocca, a Social Studies teacher at a predominantly white school district in Portland, Oregon . “It’s a shared collective past.”
Tackling racial inequality
Racial inequality will never be fully tackled by everyone in the country if it is not approached in a collective manner. However, it is hopeful to see how some individuals within our community are spearheading initiatives to combat racial inequality.
Albert Tate, who is the founder and lead pastor of Fellowship Church as well as a member of APU’s Board of Trustees, has recently created a master class at the church called “Disciple Out Racism.” The class is focused on educating church leaders on how to preach, teach and talk about racism.
Pastor Tate said the idea for this class came to him shortly after the murder of George Floyd when he was discussing the lack of a response from the church with friends.
“If we are going to love each other well, like the good Samaritan, we have got to see their burden and not be their burden,” Pastor Tate said. “Social justice and doing the work of justice is seeing something wrong and in the name of Jesus, making it right.”
Pastor Tate believes that a step for Christians to take would be to be mentored by or study under people who, “don’t look like you, don’t live like you, and don’t vote like you.” He said that learning from people with different perspectives creates a conversation that desperately needs to happen on all levels of American society.
As we celebrate BHM this year, we must acknowledge the steps it took to create social change and remember those who inspired them. After the pandemic there will be no new normal. From here on out, it is going to be a continuous process of change and adaptation. But it is up to us to become a part of the solution and to work towards reconciliation.
In the words of National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, “For there is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it. If only we are brave enough to be it.”