The month of February celebrates Black History – but we should extend our learning and appreciation beyond this. Black people built this country and remain uncompensated for their ancestors' oppression and underpaid for their own labor.
Salisbury University, as a Predominantly White Institution (PWI), should actively and consciously give back to Black communities within and around it.
Reparations are important. The first thing you can do during and beyond Black History Month is look into mutual aid organizations which directly help predominantly Black areas. As Greater Baltimore DSA says, "Mutual aid is not charity. Mutual aid is organizing."
The logic could be much simpler: 12.5 million African people were enslaved over the course of 246 years. Generational trauma runs deep. The lasting effects of slavery include systemic racism and its intersections with redlining; poverty; disability; environmental racism; homophobia and transphobia; ableism and more.
If reparations still raise questions for you; if you're part of this campus community; if you're white and unsure or a non-Black person in general: research.
Black people are the blueprint for pop culture and innovators in medicine.
"Black queer men created house music ...The notorious airbrush T-shirt design was spearheaded by Black men ... A Black doctor invented blood banks ... credit the lifesaving pacemaker to a Dr. Otis Boykin ... The probe that revolutionized cataract surgery was created by a Black woman ..." and more, according to Mikayla Wyatt's Black is the Blueprint article.
Much of Black history, Black labor and this blueprint are overlooked. When a Black person tries to speak out about this or their own labors, they're met with microaggressions, straight-up harassment and hatred. When a white (or non-Black) person does the same, they get praised.
As a non-black person myself, my job as an opinion writer is capable of harming the Black people in this community, receiving praise for research that is not entirely my own, but through the labors of Black people. I am not free of my own anti-Blackness, unlearned or not, nor of my responsibility to pay reparations forward.
Beyond research, contribute to Black people around you. Listen to your Black friends; pay for a purchase, a bill or an outing – but with intent.
The NAACP cites reparations as the resolution: "THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP reaffirms and stands in favor of financial reparations to African Americans and those of African Descent in the United States that are descendants of the slavery and the Jim Crow Era."
SU's website features a list of Black History Month events open to the campus community.
By SUMMER SMITH
Featured image courtesy of Summer Smith