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Black History Month Through the Eyes of a White Girl

Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor

 

I am white. My family is white and the town I grew up in is predominately white. The majority of my classmates were white. Do I love my hometown, my family and the life I lived? Absolutely. I also like to think I grew up unaware of racial division. If a girl of another race sat by me in class, cool! We could trade markers! It was not until I reached the upper years of high school that I truly began to take notice of the issues with race in our society, but that is a conversation for another time. What I want to focus on is the one thing that always stood out to me in my white school in my white community: the observance of Black History Month.

 

I personally loved learning about Black History Month as a child. The stories of Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and so many other courageous individuals. Their stories inspired me and peaked my curiosity. Why? Because their experience was so different than mine. As much as I loved learning about these individuals and their great contributions to the African-American community and our society as a whole, I could not help but wonder: why did we need a Black History Month? Was not their history our history too?

 

Now that I am older, with much more perspective and observation, I think I have an answer to elementary school Paige’s questions. It is not perfect, and still holds the nuances of someone who does not share in the experiences of the African-American community, but I truly believe growth can only come from the communication of ideas.

 

Black History Month is an invitation to look at the lives and experiences of a community that is often overlooked by the history books of our society. It is not merely an invitation to look at the struggles of the African-American community, such as the Civil Rights Movement or the cruelty of slavery, but a celebration of a beautiful people and culture that enriches each and every one of our lives. It opens the doors for diversity in the classroom, in media and in our world.

 

Black History Month is an honest look at the uphill battles of an often marginalized community, and a peal of triumph that tomorrow is still marching forward. It is unspoken history, receiving its true place in the hearts of its people. It is a call to action for all peoples, a reminder that we must continue this spirit of pride in diversity in all the other 11 months of the year. It forces us to confront the ideas that just because we listen to Beyonce does not mean we truly advocate for our fellow human beings. It pushes us to confront injustice and celebrate in the triumphs of others before us, while looking to the future with an expectation of even more incredible things to come from this powerful community.

 

I write this not as a person who believes they can truly understand everything about the importance of this month. I stand from a white position of privilege that my history is the story told in textbooks. I write this not to bring light to the white community during this month. I write this for all the other white girls sitting in school, wondering, why do we need a Black History month? In the hopes that they may one day understand its enduring importance as well.

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