Black History Month is drawing to a close and I can’t help but feel disappointed that much of America is content to limit black history to a single month. While it is important to keep Black History Month in order to promote awareness within an almost deaf sector of America, it is disappointing that many of us don’t continue to celebrate our combined heritage throughout the year or in our daily lives. Once Black History month is over, a large number of the population will go back to the grind and put black history behind them. I’m not black and I don’t claim to know it all (there is a lot I still don’t know), but I have been awakened to issues that don’t hold value in a “white” world. It’s all too easy for many individuals to live a segregated life, one that keeps them distanced from anyone different from them. If we just take the time to look, we can point to a clear color line within our cities, schools, businesses and throughout the individuals that we choose to keep as friends. There is a wealthier, “whiter” neighborhood on one side of the tracks and a poorer, “blacker” neighborhood on the other side. I once had a professor explain that “if you want to find the black folks in a town, just look for the railroad tracks“…and in most cases he would be right. In a world where we can clearly see segregation lines, how is it that we are able to tell ourselves that racism is no longer an issue…that people are simply “playing the race card“? By downgrading the plight of victims of racism and believing that the problem is minimal, we are actually contributing to it’s further growth and securing a place for prejudice in our greater American culture.
If we understand class discrimination, then we can begin to understand racism…which essentially operates in the same way. The slurs, hateful looks, discouraging words and public exclusion serve as indicators to tell black folks that they don’t belong, don’t matter and are not worthy of equal respect. Over time, we begin to believe what the world tells us about ourselves and we live as if we have everything to fear. In this way, society keeps us down, second guessing our worth and limiting our own accomplishments.
For me, I likely would not have begun to explore underrepresented histories if it were not for some amazing and loving individuals in my life who cared enough to help me understand diverse perspectives. Upon coming to know and love my husband I was invited into a world that existed alternately to mine…as a result I find more comfort and solidarity amongst Latinos than any other group. This isn’t turning against my race, but rather appreciating the qualities of another…something that many individuals fail to understand. When segregation occurs, it can prevent individuals from having the experiences that would bring them understanding about other cultures and ethnicities. So, it’s all the more important that white families join in the efforts to combat racism and that we support ALL people by exploring each other’s heritage and having open and caring discussions about race. Racism isn’t a “black problem”, it affects us ALL. But we can solve the problem together…with love and understanding.
- My amazing husband, Ricardo, who loved me enough to make me a part of his world without prejudice.
- My parents, who despite growing up in times of extreme prejudice, exposed me to beautiful bits of diversity, culture and language.
- My professors Janie Brooks and Dr. Beverly Hair who were always explored honest and open discussions about race.
- Public figures…Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., Oprah, Alice Walker, Dr. Maya Angelou, Chimamanda Adichie, Terrance Howard, Morgan Freeman and so many more…for their amazing words and actions that make a difference in telling the story of black history and instilling black pride.
© 2011 – 2012, Chantilly Patiño. All rights reserved.