A better Black History Month

Bruce Walton

Bruce Walton

Bruce Walton is a sophomore news major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

At the end of February, I like to reflect on everything concerning the year’s Black History Month. Last year, I wrote a column about how disappointed I was in Kent State University (as a whole) for its lack of involvement. It was not the best I’ve seen the campus do to celebrate, aside from racial and multicultural student organizations that always give their best. But this year was much better.

I first would like to thank the Kent State student media for their involvement in Black History Month with a special newspaper and online schedule of the month’s events.

This year I learned much more than I ever had from grade school to high school education. In those times, Black History Month was basically just about celebrating the accomplishments of African-Americans like Martin Luther King Jr., George Washington Carver, Barack Obama, Malcolm X, etc. But something occurred to me.

In many aspects of Black History Month, the focus is on the positive aspects of Black History, while the historical atrocities are swept under the rug. Black History Month should include the good and the bad.

I have studied what America did to free slaves up until the Civil Rights Act. American slavery was a terrible and abusive time for African Americans, but after the Civil War, crimes against blacks still persisted. Freed slaves in the south were tricked into indentured servitude for the rest of their lives so owners could keep their slaves. Lynchings across the south were committed on African Americans by falsely claiming individuals to a crime they clearly didn’t commit, some merely recreational. Until 1967, interracial marriage was illegal in some states while marrying a cousin or bestiality was legal. And there was the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, in which the U.S. government conducted human experimentation on blacks in Alabama by telling the residents it would treat syphilis; that lasted for about 50 years, killing hundreds of innocent men and women.

These are stories you have to find, or be lucky enough to have a professor willing to discuss the dark history of America. I believe true pride in one’s country is admitting its crimes and moving past them. By moving past them I don’t mean ignoring them but admitting that, yes, America experimented on blacks, ignored countless unprovoked killings of blacks and advertised itself as a beacon of freedom while treating blacks as bad as Jewish people during the Nuremberg Laws for a century after slavery was abolished.

Black History Month is a time in which we should reflect not only on how far African-Americans have come, overcoming adversity and impossible odds, but also on America’s crimes and racial persecution of African-Americans as well. If our educational institutions and media were more open on both sides of black history, we may be able to stop our society from repeating it.