It is February, which means it is Black History Month! Whenever this month comes around, I try my best to learn something new about Black people, whether that be a new artist, a business to support, or the history of the injustices still occurring today. Often, I find myself learning the full truth about something I was initially taught in school with a layer of sugar coating. When that happens, I am surprised by my ignorance.
Of course, I then end up being surprised by my surprise. As I learn more, however, I know that I shouldn’t be. Unfortunately, we live in a flawed country, and some of those flaws include rewriting history and teaching skewed views to children that make us blind to reality as adults. However, not everyone lives with those misconceptions. The reason for that can be any number of things: different teachers/school curriculum, family members, and being a part of a community that cannot afford to be ignorant.
I’m talking about Black people and all the other marginalized groups. I am not Black, and obviously, I cannot speak for everyone, but Black people tend to know more about the horrors of our history because they have to in order to protect themselves. So while the rest of us are surprised, they aren’t, and sometimes that means they have to deal with our ignorance.
What I’m trying to say with this article is to check your privilege. I always feel ashamed of myself when I am surprised by something new I learned, and I have to remind myself that it isn’t necessarily my fault. It is our country, our history textbooks, and our society that are to blame. And while none of those things can change quickly, the first step to making progress is recognizing who has privilege and how they can use it. The color of my skin affords me a certain authority and trust; it is my duty to use that to make sure that, hopefully someday soon, everyone has that kind of automatic respect.
This February, don’t just learn about Black history. Look into yourself as well, and recognize what you can do better to help your fellow human beings.