February should not be the end of our Black history education and understanding
Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Many throughout history have expressed that sentiment. Every year during February, we talk about the same people and read the same speeches. However, truly understanding any history and how it impacts the present takes much longer than a month.
One needs more than a month to learn why it is important to know that Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton was assassinated by the United States government. It takes more than a month, and more than a two-hour movie for that matter, to learn why the government would want to.
It takes more than a month to learn why those facts would not be discussed in a history class in a predominantly white or mixed school.
In a month, one will not truly understand how slaves were treated. As recently as 2015, a Texas history book, referred to enslaved Africans brought to America as “workers.”
Several textbooks still cite slavery as a contributing factor to the Civil War and not the main cause despite several states listing the forced labor as their main reason for secession.
It is also impossible to adequately learn about the countless horrors of slavery. As much as people are aware of human trafficking now, it is not new and should be thought about in the same terms, except for the fact that it was state sanctioned and the single most profitable industry in the United States at the time.
It would be like saying that Jeff Bezos made his money of human trafficking and everyone was not only OK with it, but also aspired to do the same.
In a month, one can not fully grasp that after the Civil War, a 12-year period called Reconstruction led to Black men holding 15 percent of elected offices in the South in 1872 when none held any of those positions at the beginning of 1867.
In the time following Reconstruction, the number of Black representatives sharply declined due to terrorism and restrictions on voting.
Many Black Americans fled from the South during the Great Migration and the ones who stayed were met new challenges brought upon by new policies like segregation.
Why is this so important to know?
We tend to look at social studies in America as a constantly forward-moving force. We see history as “People learned from their mistakes, and now we are moving forward.”
Politicians often used the word “forward” when talking about the atrocities that Black Americans have faced.
That 15 percent of southern elected offices held by Black Americans in the 1870s was larger portion than in 1990.
In the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement led to the integration all across the South. In 2012, The Atlantic posted a story about how schools across America were more segregated in the last decade than they were when the Civil Rights Bill was signed.
As Georgia had a record turnout of Black voters in the 2020 election, pay attention to the voting restrictions passed by the state as you are reading this. While every single reputable study shows that voter fraud is not only rare, it has had zero impact on any election.
In North Carolina, the state’s Supreme Court shut down a bill that would restrict voting. A judge wrote that the bill was an unconstitutional effort “to target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”
Lawmakers asked for polling data by racial breakdown and then sought to shut down early polling locations that were predominantly used by Black people.
The Georgia House passed a similar restrictive bills this week.
The line between history and the present is defined and strong.
While we have spent last month praising the works of dead heroes, we are constantly dismissing, or at best ignoring the work of the current ones.
If we do not learn from history, we are not just doomed to repeat it; we are simply doomed.
It takes more than a month, or a 700-word column to get that.
Chris Moore is the sports editor for Port Arthur Newsmedia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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