Understand the ‘magnitude of slavery’

This column is not meant to offend or dismay you. I address this piece specifically to you because there is a question that you may raise (not all, but a majority) that I would like to address directly.

Since the first February I have been on this campus three years ago, a moment has not passed that this conversation has not been suffocating me:

“Why do we even have a Black History Month? I mean we don’t have a White History Month? It’s really all just one big history.”

For three years I have listened to several students make this claim without a drop of understanding in their voice. They talk as if they know there is no better response than what they just said. There has not been one time that anyone has stopped to ask my opinion. Instead, they have talked as if I were not in the room or as if I could not hear their complaints.

So here is my reason for why there is a Black History Month, why there is a need for all to engage with it and how we as Christians should respond to it.

The intent of Black History Month is not to overshadow or say our history is more prevalent than another’s. As a matter of fact, Black History Month, Native American Heritage Month and Hispanic Heritage Month were created to highlight marginalized groups’ histories, because in the American classroom, their histories are scarcely mentioned.

In the American classroom I have learned the story of the American Revolution until I have memorized every event, but I cannot remember a teacher who has correctly taught the magnitude of slavery.

I have learned Shakespeare, Austin, Hemingway, Dante, Robert Browning, The Odyssey, Iliad, Aeneid and at the moment I only need to use one hand to count the number of African American writers I have been introduced to in school from the time I was in kindergarten to today.

Black History Month is a platform where all can learn about the African American perspective on the American narrative. Black history is not divorcing itself from American history, but it is providing another perspective on American history. If we only read American history and exclude the African American, Hispanic, and Native American narratives, we are only getting one side of the story.

There is also a way we as Christians should respond to this month, which is found in 1 John 4:11: “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

We are obligated as Christians to love each other, and love is something that is composed of more than just saying the words “I love you.” It involves understanding each other’s past and present and partnering to establish their future. As Christians, this month is a time for us to look back on the injustices that happened in this country and how they are still relevant today. This is a time where we can learn to take the virtues of forgiveness, love and peace and apply them to racially charged situations.

Watts is a junior majoring in English. She can be reached at wattsb@jbu.edu.