Yes, it’s March, and to many, this may seem outdated, but I want to discuss the importance of Black History Month and the continuation of racism. I have been thinking a lot about how racism is still influential in today’s society despite the valiant efforts of the historical Civil Rights and the Black Lives Matter movements. As a black person, particularly at Bates, I feel in many ways isolated and alone. Black History Month is a critical period for people all around the world because it symbolizes the many cultural and emotional implications of race. Black History Month, to me, is the ability to celebrate and pay tribute to the evolution of black people in society.
As a child, I always enjoyed watching documentaries such as Eyes On The Prize while learning more about the significance of black people in the United States and in the world. But unfortunately, those times have passed. I have been a victim of racism ever since I was six years old and every day I walk with that pain. Nowadays, I fear for people of color, especially black people, everywhere as we continue to be the targets of hatred. In many ways, race is still being used to dehumanize people of color and uphold white supremacy. I am saddened not just by how racism is still prevalent in today’s society but how people seem to ignore the signs of one’s pain.
I am saddened that even at a school such as Bates, I have been the target of racism and, as a result, have been reluctant to share my story and to speak my truth. Similarly to other kinds of social inequality, people who are victims of racism are ignored by the corrupt institutions of the criminal justice system and the federal government. Even in schools and universities, people of color are often seen as annoyances and burdens to faculty, administration, and other authorities. I wish my experience at Bates was different. I wish I felt secure enough to walk into Commons and not have people look at me with judgment as I walk to my seat. I wish I felt confident enough that every time I spoke up in class, I wouldn’t have to feel worried that people doubted my abilities. I wish I felt safe enough that, every time I walked to my dorm, people wouldn’t question why I am at a school like Bates. And I fear that I don’t have enough support to deal with these emotions.
The issue of race is not clear cut, it is multifaceted. People of color come from various different backgrounds and ethnicities. We talk many dialects, and we speak many languages. We have faith in many religions, and we believe in many messages. We are many people, but we are one people. We are not objects. We are not meant to be victims of hatred and discrimination. We are not meant to be part of an elaborate plot to obscure the truth and to misinform people. We are meant to be human beings. We are meant to live our lives to the fullest. We are meant to love. Regardless of what we do, the pain is still here. My experience is painful, to say the least, because the majority of times that I have experienced racism was in a school setting. Despite my best wishes and my misguided optimism, I have experienced racism at Bates. To my surprise, in my time of isolation and vulnerability, people who I didn’t think would support me, did.
Those people helped me realize that I am not the only one at Bates who has faced racial injustice. But it hurts to say that people view me as an enemy and as a threat to their lives. I hope that in time Bates as a community does better to address issues such as racism and social issues on campus. I know that if we do our part and work together towards a better future, maybe people like me won’t feel so targeted as much. However, despite this little optimism, I cannot excuse the terrible feeling it is to be a victim of racism. Black History Month is a great way to celebrate black culture and history, but it is not enough to combat the power of racism and discrimination. We must all unite to stand for what is right and to strive for equality.