Everyone can celebrate Black History Month

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The contributions of black Americans like Martin Luther King Jr. have shaped the nation’s history, and all Americans should celebrate this aspect of their past. Photo by Kathleen Miller

While cleaning out my great-grandfather’s house — apparently for the first time in a century — my family found a bill of sale for an entire family. My ancestors had owned slaves.

The document, written by my great-great-great grandfather, included a stipulation that the family must stay together.

Ashamedly, when I was younger and heard for the first time that the family was kept together, a sigh of relief came to me.

When I remember those feelings of relief today, I feel guilty, as I should.

Guilt is not a bad thing, and as Dante wrote in the Divine Comedy, guilt and contrition is the first step toward correcting unjustly ordered souls, whether internally or in the world around us.

The crime against nature my family committed is not my fault, but it is my duty and the duty of all Americans to repair the damaged foundation of our country’s tainted moral integrity.

The fact that we have a Black History Month shows that countless injustices have been committed, and black history wasn’t celebrated.

One cannot look at the list of UD’s history courses and not admit that black history is easily and often overlooked.

There are many ways to integrate the black liberal arts tradition such as with classes in African-American poetry and literature.

It is often said by supporters of Black History Month that every other month is White History Month. It would seem that our university’s catalog proves that, as our Eurocentric focus largely lacks any culturally sensitive classes.

Black History Month makes an effort to increase awareness among all Americans of the contemporary and historical errors present in our culture.

For the same reason there is a Mental Health Awareness Month or an Alcohol Awareness Month, we need Black History month to remind us of the struggles of the men and women who were forced to help build our nation.

In the classroom, slavery is often referred to as America’s original sin.

In that sense, the residual racism that led to the Civil Rights Era is its concupiscence.

Just as the already baptized stumble along the way to perfecting the will, America’s quest to correct fully the errors of our past hits generational roadblocks.

Even today, our generation faces new challenges.

One example is prison sentencing lengths.

Prison sentence lengths for African-Americans are 20 percent higher for the same crimes committed by white people, according to the Wall Street Journal, The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, African-Americans are expelled three times more often than white students, though there are twice as many white students.

One might immediately feel that this is simply because they violate more policies, which may be true. But even so, African-Americans are said from the same report to face a much higher likelihood of being reported to law enforcement for similar offenses.

Additionally, schools in primarily black districts pay their teachers on average $2,500 less per school year than their counterparts in predominantly white districts.

Although I would argue all the previous issues are pro-life issues, in terms of the colloquial pro-life agenda, abortion itself is also an issue. Black babies are five times more likely to be aborted than white babies.

Margaret Sanger, the famous abortion rights activist, said that African-Americans are weeds to be exterminated.

The pro-life movement needs to embrace a “both/and” approach toward our quest to build not just a culture of life in which abortions do not occur, but a life-giving culture, where black lives do truly matter.

Many have said that there should not be a Black History Month because it divides us, and we need to dwell on what we have in common instead of what separates our cultures.

If that were demonstrably true and in accordance with reality, there would not have been a Black History Month in the first place.

Americans face two choices: Either we can recognize that our cultures are separate and embrace our diverse “melting-pot” culture, or can operate under the false assumption that racism is simply not real and not worth thinking about.

I hope we choose the former by celebrating black history, which is American history — our history.

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