Recognizing Social Injustice

Looking for the true, unbiased African American stories and experiences

Ashley McFadden, Editor

Black history has largely been erased to fit a white narrative, and Black History Month (BHM) brings forward many of these Black stories and accomplishments during the month of February. BHM is not typically associated with the Black Lives Matter movement as closely as the two have been this year. Now, Black stories are being shared along with petitions for justice of Black individuals.
“When I [think of] Black History Month, I think of the history […] of the systems, many of which have been perpetuated to this day that are going to act against the oppression of BIPOC [Black, indigenous, and people of color] individuals, Black individuals in particular,” junior Levi Bordeaux said. “But I also think of the accomplishments of certain Black individuals that have acted to abolish a lot of those systems and have acted against their oppression […] in the past.”
Following George Floyd’s death over the summer, an anti-racism task force now known as Northern Michigan E3 (Educate, Elevate and Engage) was formed in Traverse City.
“[The task force] was first brought together the Friday after the death of George Floyd. We held a small rally with a little over 200 people,” Marshall Collins, member of the E3 council, said. “We were fed up and done [with] what pushed 100s of years of discrimination, racism, and oppression.”
The goal of the E3 taskforce is to combat racism in the Northern Michigan area. In 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 92.5 percent of Traverse City is made up of white people, whereas BIPOC individuals only make up 6.7 percent of the city’s population. While the area is predominately white, the BIPOC community does face racism.
“The impact that I would like to make is for people of color to feel comfortable in their community, comfortable going into stores, restaurants, or just feeling safe going out in our community,” Collins said. “[The goal is to] dismantle all forms of racism, hold those in power responsible for their actions in the realms of prejudices, biases, discriminatory practices, racism, for all people but more specific to the BIPOC population.”
Black history is rarely covered in most school curriculums. English is the primary course where Black history is given a platform. Collins has spoken to classes around the TCAPS district regarding the reality of America that is not taught in standard classes.
“I would always say the heroes and legacy of the Black culture. Now I say teach some of the reality of America: the truth of slavery, the treatment of Native Americans, Japanese Camps, Treatment of Chinese. All this is minimized in our books so no one understands the continual poor treatment of people of color in our Nations. [Teach] not only a celebration of the accomplishments of people of color but an understanding of how the system has failed us over and over and over again,” Collins said.
Over time, Black history has been erased as Americans have painted a narrative that white people are the superior race and schools have adapted that way of thinking.
“A lot of Black history was erased during the colonial and imperialist eras, mostly due to the intervention of western powers in Africa, so I think it’s time that we owe the Black community because it’s putting the history of a people in the spotlight whereas the history was previously erased,” Bordeaux said.
Collins shares a similar idea as Bordeaux: in order to understand the history, it first needs to be restored.
“[There needs to be] more input from the communities of color when selecting curriculum resources. Involve students in the selection process,” Collins said.
On top of school’s integrating more Black history into their curriculum, it is up to individuals to educate themselves. It is not a minority community’s job to educate others.
“As white individual[s], it is our duty to educate ourselves on this history because we have an ancestry, whether we like it or not, that has acted to repress and subjugate and genocide Black and African communities. I think it’s very important for us to educate ourselves so that we can free ourselves of that mindset,” Bordeaux said.
Many believe Black history should be celebrated year round, not because it has to be conveniently pointed out to society for one month.
“[There should be a] celebration of BIPOC communities more than once a month. It has to be an ongoing process [in order to improve] the process,” Collins said.