Most 11-year-olds have an outlined set of priorities during a school day among themselves: dominating in four square during recess, coming up with the best food items to trade during lunch and copying their friend’s homework right before the bell rings. But, there is also one more priority that every kid should have: getting to know their diverse group of peers. 

During the month of February, Mason City Schools (my former school district) would hold an annual competition known as the Black History Bowl testing our knowledge on prominent figures within the African-American community and the different civil rights movements. Although several high-profile incidents involving racism have recently hampered the school district, Black History Bowl has always been an excellent way to promote the growth of knowledge within diversity and the numerous contributions that African-Americans have made to the U.S. 

Unfortunately, these types of activities are seldomly implemented within many schools nationwide. Although Black History Month is a nationally recognized celebration, many school districts fail in teaching the roots of African-American heritage — and racism too for that matter. Of course, certain issues regarding race and sex can be controversial to teach within a classroom, however, merely ignoring the harsh realities of the way African-American life was in the 19th and early 20th century (and today) has absolutely no benefit. None. 

Critics of Black History Month state that dedicating a movement for a month is too long. Well, if we have an entire day celebrating the evils of a man who committed genocide and enslaved thousands of people, I think a month is rather well-deserved.

Black History Month officially began as a national observance during the year of 1976, issued by former President Gerald Ford. His message at the time was to "seize the opportunity to honor the neglected accomplishments of black Americans.” Since then, Black History Month has become extremely prevalent on a global scale. Countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany all have their own traditions and customs that are celebrated in light of all the achievements those of African descent have done for their respective country.

However, it takes more than just a month to learn about all of the struggles that African-Americans have faced throughout history. There are plenty of struggles that continue to hamper communities nationwide and are still being brought to light to those that are oblivious to such discrimination. Whether it be the tragic deaths of Trayvon Martin and Philando Castile or the harsh backlash that black athletes receive every time they use their platform to speak out on such issues, racism is sadly still alive and well in the United States. However, as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and David Thoreau have all stated in the past, ultimately, education will be the main weapon to combat these systemic issues, not violence. So instead of favoriting tweets under #blackhistorymonth, pick up a book and learn something from the past that will positively impact the future and create a more equal nation. Because that’s what everybody, regardless of skin color, religion or sexual orientation, deserves: equality.

Akash Bakshi is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree with Akash? Let him know by tweeting him @akashmbakshi.

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