Though corporations often use Black History Month to capitalize on the Black community, the celebration is much more than that. In fact, each year carries a distinct theme that aims to bring awareness to a certain area of the Black experience in America. This year’s theme, Black Resistance, is poignant and powerful, offering a unique insight into Black life.
A History of Oppression
Though many people wish to deny it, one of the foundations of the United States’ political and social systems is the systematic oppression of people of color. The foundation of this country was built by the free and exploited labor of Black people, beginning with slavery. Still today, incarcerated individuals are forced to work for little or no pay. As a disproportionate amount of incarcerated people are Black, the cycle of slavery continues.
When official systematic slavery was abolished, the United States developed other ways to oppress the Black community. Jim Crow laws prevented Black people from living with the same freedom and access as their white counterparts. Segregation made it difficult for Black children to get a high-quality education, and many predominantly Black neighborhoods still have schools that are underfunded and understaffed compared to mainly white neighborhoods.
Even now, a disproportionate amount of Black people, especially Black men, are murdered by police officers. Officers continue to injure and kill Black people at alarming rates when there is no requirement for violence or attack. Most Black families must teach their children to fear the police and what to do if they are ever pulled over.
Rising to Resistance
Despite the impossible and cruel circumstances that the United States has exerted, oppression is not what defines the Black community. Rather, a history of resistance and action is at the center of Black History. Boycotts, sit-ins, marches, walkouts, and other forms of protest have created significant, meaningful change for Black folks in America. Through organization, passion, and action, Black Americans have continued to stand up for themselves and work to dismantle this violent, racist system that still dominates our culture.
Despite clear action on the part of Black people throughout history, many people still define the Black community by the systems and issues that have oppressed them. The people who work to resist oppression are often ignored, written out of history books, murdered, or silenced in other ways.
If white America does acknowledge the resistance of Black folks, it is often in terms of criticism. Many would prefer that these protesters be “less angry,” more “civil,” or voice their experiences in a different way. Rather than listen to the message of Black Resistance, American society criticizes Black activists and demands that their search for justice occur according to white standards. This type of judgment aims to weaken the message of Black activists while continuing to impart white supremacist standards on those who simply want equal rights and treatment. ‘
Black History Month 2023
The 2023 Black History Month theme of Black Resistance shines a much-needed light on the incredible work and tenacity of the Black community. Not only have Black people continued to fight for what they deserve, but they have also done so under a centuries-old system of racism, oppression, and white supremacy in America. These themes are still incredibly present today, and too infrequently do we acknowledge Black activists for resisting under impossible circumstances.
May this year’s Black History Month begin to shift the public’s understanding of the tactics that Black people have used to overcome and begin to impart empathy on those who have historically criticized when they should have listened.
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