Why Black History Month feels different this year

Jon Quinn (TheLorian)

Black History Month is a time to reminiscence and celebrate the progress black lives have made towards a more equitable society. It’s also a time to learn about what the black population in America has endured since the first ship of enslaved people arrived on the coast of Virginia in 1619, marking the start of institutional slavery in America.

This past Wednesday, Jan. 20, during common time, Loras College hosted a virtual lecture with Fred Saffold about America’s true Black history. Different organizations on campus plan to host events in honor of Black History Month. Event details will be included in next week’s issue.

Nonetheless, it would be inappropriate to not acknowledge the weight being carried into Black History Month of 2021. It was almost a year ago when Ahmaud Arbery went for a jog and didn’t return. It wouldn’t be a month later when Breonna Taylor went to bed and didn’t wake up. And because of the ubiquitous use of cell phone cameras, the entire world watched the killing of George Floyd.

A summer of demonstrations followed, few turning violent as the nights went on. “Law and Order!” became a platform to stand on for those who did not approve of the riots, protests, and demonstrations.

The events this past summer has happened before during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s; back when Black History Month was only Black History Week. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was in Birmingham Jail when he wrote his rebuttal to white clergymen why he was leading demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama.

King explains that the demonstrations are supposed to create tension which exploits the perpetuation of unjust laws. To relieve that tension requires social change. The biggest threat to this strategy are the people with good will but shallow understanding.

“I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress,” said King.

King acknowledges Blacks who endured oppression for so long, that they are drained of a sense of “somebodiness,” and Blacks that are academically and economically successful can both insensitive to the injustice in society.

The reason why Black History Month feels different this year is because people are realizing Black History Month is an annual observance, allowing those “with good will but shallow understanding” to be passive. It feels different because the injustice talked about in history class is still alive. It feels different because we are in a new civil rights movement.

On Sept 8, 2020, Loras College made a decision to take down the statue of Bishop Mathias Loras because he enslaved a woman named Marie Louise for 800 dollars while living in Mobile, Alabama. The College acted swiftly in creating a scholarship fund in Louise’s name and will be ready by the 2021-22 academic year.

The fight against injustice may be highlighted in February. but in actuality, is constant year round. I’m asking more people to get involved because “more and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will,” said King. It’s time to encourage those with good will, institutions and individuals, to use their time more effectively than those with ill will.

“Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be coworkers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation,” said King. “We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”

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Jon is currently a junior who is double-majoring in Media Studies and Public Relations. He is heavily involved at Loras as a campus photographer, residential adviser, and a sports editor for the school newspaper, The Lorian.

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