Nadine Spencer

Black History Month

As we make our way into Black History Month, we have the opportunity to look back at both the accomplishments of the Black community and also how people of color have been treated over the years. While there is a lot to lament in our history, what is most distressing is how little appears to have changed in recent years. If 2020 showed us anything, it is that our society is not as progressive and equitable as we’d like to think. Between the unjust killings of numerous, unarmed Black people at the hands of police brutality, the ongoing systemic racism that exists within the various levels of government and society, a resurgence of White supremacy, and an ongoing race war, it is clear that we are still dealing with the same problems that have plagued our people for hundreds if not thousands of years—problems of intolerance, divisiveness, hate, and inequality.

Fortunately, 2020 also included a number of events worth celebrating, not the least of which was the election of a Black/Indian woman to the office of Vice President of the United States. While it is easy to become focused on all of the hate and ugliness that is happening around us, it is important to remember that, in November’s US Presidential election, 80 million people voted against hate and intolerance and divisive rhetoric, and instead voted for tolerance and healing and diversity. We obviously still have a long way to go in our society—and we won’t stop the work of unification until intolerance has been stamped out completely—but whenever we are in danger of drowning in frustration and disappointment at the injustice and prejudice that surrounds us, it is heartening to know that a majority of people do not think like that.

That being said, the work continues—and we are nowhere near reaching a point where all people are accepted and celebrated for their diverse contributions in culture, ideas, and racial heritage. Systemic racism continues to oppression minorities in a variety of ways, from overtly racist rhetoric to subtle policies of oppression such that result in disparities in wealth, opportunity, and representation. But if Black history has taught us anything, it is that we are a resilient people with limitless talent and potential. Eventually, we will overcome—through advocacy, empathy, and collaboration with the majority of people who, like us, seek to stamp out divisiveness and inequality.

During this Black History Month, let’s not lose sight of where we have come from—both our challenges and our accomplishments—but let’s also not get stuck in the past or the present, but instead apply what we have learned toward creating the bright future that all people deserve.