Editorial: Black history should be honored throughout the entire year

February 23, 2017

As February draws to a close, so too does the nation’s observance of Black History Month. The Hopkins community has been engaged in a month of educational and celebratory programs to honor the contributions of black Americans. But why end on Feb. 28?

This year, the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) partnered with student groups such as the African Students Association, The Black Student Union, Hopkins Feminists and many others to facilitate discussions and events surrounding black history.

In addition, the Center for Africana Studies (CAS) hosted several panels and talks to educate students. Programming organized by OMA and CAS has included a screening of the documentary I Am Not Your Negro and a discussion about Islam in Baltimore to a panel entitled “Black Creatives and American Whitelash.”

The Editorial Board commends the University and student organizations for putting together a comprehensive and diverse calendar of events. We further appreciate that the University, through OMA and CAS, has directly supported Black History Month events, demonstrating their commitment to educating the community beyond the classroom about the African-American experience.

We particularly appreciate the Black Issues in Higher Education forum in which panelists discussed the University’s Roadmap on Diversity and Inclusion. The fact that James Page, vice provost and interim chief diversity officer, served as a panelist further emphasizes the University’s goal to address race.

The Editorial Board believes it is important to reflect on race relations, especially in today’s turbulent and divisive political climate. Instead of just using the language of diversity to make our University look good, it is important that we use it to right past wrongs and equalize racial power structures.

Black History Month affords the University and its students the opportunity to reflect on their role within our city. Hopkins was built on the backs of slaves; the campus was formerly a plantation. In Baltimore, Hopkins wields incredible power as a large private employer and developer, and yet many people of color still disproportionately suffer from our country’s enduring inequalities.

We acknowledge that the University has made real efforts to improve relations with the community and come to terms with its troubled history. However, these are important and complex issues, and there is still progress to be made.

An area in which the University still has room for improvement is its employee makeup. The University’s employment profile is an example of how the racial inequality still reverberates today. Many lower paying jobs are occupied by people of color, while the higher paying jobs are primarily held by white employees. While we recognize that the University has actively worked to lessen this inequality, there are still a long way to go.

The Editorial Board encourages students to take advantage of opportunities to learn about black history outside the events hosted this month. Because black history is American history, it is important for students to stay informed, educated and conscious.

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