The Editorial Board recognizes the importance and significance of Black History Month
In 2021, Black History Month has come at a time when Black Americans are dying of COVID-19 at three times the rate of white Americans, and after a year in which Black Americans faced countless instances of continued police brutality and injustice. But this year, Black History Month also comes after a year when the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement became the largest in U.S. history, and has become what many hope is a turning point in this country’s attitude toward racial justice.
Black History Month brings with it the best intentions to honor and remember important Black figures in history and their role in shaping this country, but one month is not enough to address the glaring inequities that continue from a history of injustice. Originating in 1915, Charles G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, an association dedicated to the research and promotion of achievements by Black Americans. It wasn’t until 1976 when former President Gerald Ford officially recognized February as Black History Month that it became the tradition we’ve come to know today.
In more general terms, Black History Month is just that: a month about actually acknowledging and celebrating Black history and its heroes, and a month that should remind us how unjustly Black people have been treated in America for so long. But it’s not just the wrongdoings of slavery or the Jim Crow era, it’s the continued environmental, individual, systemic and legal racism that are prevalent today that we should acknowledge in our hearts, not just in our captions. Because that is why history is so important and is intended to teach us about our present; to answer the question: “Why are things the way they are today?” The racial inequities we see today can only be understood by their deep-rooted history. Why did Colin Kaepernick take a knee? Why did Rosa Parks sit in the front of the bus? Why did Frederick Douglas write a book?
Our education system is failing students if it does not provide an accurate understanding of our country’s past—racial bias training and quizzes can only do so much. And unfortunately for most students, our history classes before college failed in providing a realistic depiction of Black history. There needs to be educational reforms from K-12 to college in how we tell history to ensure we all have a comprehensive understanding of American history.
We hope to see UC Davis address this considering they’re already a worldwide leader when it comes to certain aspects of “diversity and internationalization,” according to the 2020 QS World University Rankings. UC Davis consistently ranks near the top in diversity, yet Black students only made up 4% of the university’s undergraduates in 2019. More broadly, according to a study by the Urban Institute, Black students are severely underrepresented at “more selective colleges” across the country and state.
Hopefully indicative of a change, Dr. Michael Drake became the first Black president in UC history. Most recently, as the president of The Ohio State University, Drake successfully reversed a 20-year trend of decreasing Black enrollment. Previously, Drake spent years in the UC system working to improve minority representation and increase access to college for low-income students, students of color and first-generation students. We expect to see these accomplishments continue across a UC system that has severely low Black student enrollment—only 2% of the total undergraduate population in 2019.
History is about knowing and learning from the past so that we can understand the meaning of today. To achieve a more equitable future, we must acknowledge and analyze the wrongs of our past so that we can help uplift those who have been burdened by injustice.
Written by: The Editorial Board