Hope springs eternal
Though February is the shortest month of the year, growing up in the Midwest, historically it also has been one of the most brutal with cold, gloomy days. Not my favorite season, which is why I choose to think positively: spring comes next month!
Additionally, today is the first day of Black History Month! As I wrote about last year, Black History Month had its origins as early as 1915 and became officially recognized as a national month by Congress in 1986. The law designated February as a time to set aside the time to gain a better understanding and celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans.
While I agree that we should seek to understand the vast achievements and contributions of African Americans, in 2022 and at a time when systemic racism, discrimination, and inequity continues to keep African Americans (and other POC) marginalized and minoritized, simply becoming aware of accomplishments is not enough.
President Biden’s 2022 Proclamation of Black History Month outlines that we must acknowledge our faults and struggles along with our progress and aspirations. While we create time and space to acknowledge contributions, we must also find a way to “reckon with centuries of injustice, and confront those injustices that still fester today.”
The ideals upon which America was founded remain a dream deferred. Though every person deserves to be treated civilly, justly, and equally, that is not the reality many of us experience.
Although it is admirable to continue proclaiming a national month of recognition for African Americans (Congress passed the law the same year I got married, and I think that is admirable, too), we must also create and implement initiatives and investments at every level—individual, community-based, organizational, and at the federal level—to cut poverty rates, increase opportunities to build wealth, decease the disparities in healthcare and maternal death rates (the US is the only industrialized nation with a consistently rising maternal death rate), and with renewed vigor, increase protections for the fundamental right to vote. Though the list is not exhaustive, it’s a good starting place!
Twenty-eight (or Leap Year’s 29) days is not nearly sufficient to acknowledge all the achievements yet alone dismantle the systems of injustice that continue to prevail. But it’s a start!
I began this post on a positive note, with my sights set on the spring season on the horizon. In regard to all of the implications of Black History Month, and the impact that each one of us can have on addressing the non-celebratory aspects which the month brings to the fore, I really do believe that hope springs eternal. We can make a difference. You can make a difference! I invite each of us to find ways to begin (or continue) doing this in ways that aren’t merely symbolic and short-lived but rather in ways that will shape a better future.