Black History Month inspires introspection for Americans

Amanda Pena

As Black History Month continues, Americans reflect on the promise that the United States is a country where opportunity is given to all. Americans also realize, however, that for a country that has surpassed many others in terms of technology, freedoms and opportunities, and prides itself on having entire months dedicated to celebrating the contributions of African-Americans, it has failed to perfect the issue of racial equality.

A little over 60 years ago, suppressed people of different racial backgrounds were fighting for equality before the law. With the arrival of Black History Month, it is important to understand that although society has come pretty far in terms of racial acceptance, we have got a long way to go before race becomes an irrelevant issue. Junot Diaz, New York Times bestselling author and part-time professor and political activist, recently spoke at a conference in Baltimore, MD called “Facing Race,” and addressed the topic of racial inequality that blatantly expressed what most people were thinking, but were too afraid to say.

“Do you know how many of my students can’t even say the word white? You all will talk about African-Americans, Latinos, and Asian-Americans all day long, but at soon as it comes time to say white peoples’, voices drop…people come up with crazy terms you have never seen before… ‘And that Caucasoid…’ You can always tell where the supreme power rests in the society because of the reluctance people have in naming that power.”

University junior Rebecca Paganini was a little taken aback at the brashness of Diaz’s words. Paganini said “White guilt is not without basis, but can be abused.” Jakob Audino, junior, felt otherwise. He contradicted Paganini’s statement saying that Diaz’s words were “true” and “even people in the Northeast, where racial inequalities are not seen as much, can relate to this quote.”

A New York Times article released after the reelection of Barack Obama in November of 2012 called “Political Racism in the Age of Obama,” argued that Obama must play a more vital role in the racism discussion.

Author Steven Hahn said “But Mr. Obama, the biracial community organizer, might consider starting his second term by articulating a vision of a multicultural, multiracial and more equitable America… If he does that…he can strike a telling blow against the political racism that haunts our country.” However, not all feel the same way Hahn does.

After Obama’s reelection, a riot broke out at The University of Mississippi by students who were angered by his win. Racial slurs were said at this anti-Obama protest including the infamous Ku Klux Klan chant, “the South will rise again.” It’s those exact moments where this country realizes how weak it is in accepting each other’s fellow citizens and looking past their differences in social class, political affiliations and race. Therefore, for now, this country must rely on affirmative action and a celebratory month of one’s culture, and the face of an ethnic president to keep the race issue transparent. However, all this does is merely cover up the problem, instead of tackle it head on.