Students, professors discuss purpose of Black History Month

Black History Month focuses on important people and events in African-American history, but whether it is still necessary in 2015 is

often questioned.

Since Black History Month continues to serve its original purpose, the U.S. still needs to observe it, said Joan Williams, director of Diversity and Institutional Equity.

“It started as an effort to say, ‘If we can highlight the significant contributions of African-Americans then people will see African-Americans in a different way, and that will promote racial equality,’” she said. “I think it’s still relevant, for all countries, that people understand the rich contributions that a population of people have made to the bigger and broader story of a country.”

Studying black history lets Americans remember how far the United States has grown, said sophomore Michael Aders.

“At one point in time we weren’t all seen as equal, and I think everyone needs to be reminded of that just so we know where we came from and where we are now,” he said. “Black History Month reminds us of the importance of black history in

this country.”

Some Black History Month observers say it should be discussed throughout the year instead of only during February, but Williams said the month-long observance allows individuals to devote time to studying the history.

Without a designated time to celebrate black history, it would not receive the attention it deserves,

she said.

“If we didn’t have an awareness month, would we really take time to focus and celebrate?” she said. “I don’t think that if we didn’t take time to highlight that we would learn about it in the same way. People are so indulged with other things that, with any other anniversary or celebration that is personal to you, you need one time to truly

focus on it.”

Senior Rachel Madrigal said cultural histories should be celebrated often.

“Black History Month is important,” she said. “I believe it should be an all-year-round event for all cultures and all races.”

Observing Black History Month also puts black history in context, Williams said.

“Black History Month is there to really talk about the important contributions of African-Americans to the United States,” she said. “It’s important for us to have a complete picture of United States history.”

Black History Month also allows for more focus on African-American history than is usually given in U.S. schools,

Williams said.

“You’re not going to learn everything you need to know about any subject from a history book,” she said. “You’re not going to learn about the history of Black History Month and how it developed, and you’re really not going to learn all about the various heroes — black and white — involved in

black history.”

Although Black History Month focuses on black culture, it should not be interpreted as the country ignoring other cultures, Williams said.

“A majority culture will always be celebrated and highlighted in a more robust way than any minority populations will be,”

she said.