Focus on progress rather than past

Black History Month is an ideal catalyst in bringing ideas of equality into fruition. Undoubtedly, racial progress has been made since the Jim Crow-era of segregation and unequivocal brutality, but the work is far from complete.

This month of celebration typically showcases re-enacted events, videos of the “I Have a Dream” speech, and historical facts. Rather than reflect and scapegoat on the accomplishments of past activists, Black History Month should assess the present state of African Americans and implement plans to manifest success for a group whose ancestral labor was instrumental in America becoming the global powerhouse it is today.

The collective state of an entire group must not be blinded by the success of the few high-achieving outliers. Surely Justin Timberlake’s and Beyonce’s global superstardom is not indicative of the status of the remaining ‘N Sync and Destiny’s Child members, right? The same school of thought applies to African Americans today.

Recently, we have seen more African Americans in college, on Wall Street, and, most notably, in the White House. However, such success is marginal in comparison to the greater African American population, which is behind nearly all other racial groups in the U.S.

According to the U.S. Census, 27 percent of African Americans live below the poverty threshold, the greatest ratio of all races. They also have the lowest household income and net worth for individuals and families. Numbers may mislead, but they do not lie.

This month should not be a compressed history lesson, but a time to orient solutions toward improvement. Activists and interested policy makers must utilize forums to transcend concerns of black Americans to society for social and legislative support. By implementing initiatives to increase college-recruiting efforts for prospective black students, expand resources for small business ownership in predominantly black neighborhoods, and reduce senseless gun violence in black neighborhoods, everyone wins.

Increasing opportunities for blacks in professional sports did wonders, so why can’t the same hold true for our socioeconomic infrastructure?

Before we identify with any race or ethnicity, we are human beings all the same. Helping black citizens only benefits the state of our nation. Black History Month can be the facilitator to put this progress in motion.

Christopher Ivory is a second-year law and M.A. journalism student.