Beyoncé stood on stage at the Super Bowl, a vision of star-quality and fierceness. She sang and danced with power, the words of her new song “Formation” echoing through the stadium and pouring from the speakers of millions of televisions. And even now, three days after her halftime performance, her words are still echoing — they’re heard through articles condemning her performance, and opinions that slander her reputation, the Black Lives Matter movement and even Black History Month. One song has triggered a flood of criticism, fury and, unfortunately, racism.
Black History Month is celebrated on college campuses, including Rider’s, all across the nation. History Channel defines this month as “an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history.” So essentially, the purpose of Black History Month is to educate the masses on the contributions and influences of African Americans, contributions and influences that were ignored or overlooked for years.
To clarify, that means Black History Month is not intended to marginalize any other racial group. It is meant to celebrate black achievements through a history plagued with violence and cruelty. There seems to be a lot of confusion on that.
There also seems to be a lot of confusion on what it means when someone utters the words “Black Lives Matter.” Saying that black lives matter does not mean that all other lives do not matter, are insignificant or are somehow inferior. Yes, “all lives matter.”
But that’s not the point here. The Black Lives Matter movement states that in a society where black innocents are gunned down and whose past includes slavery and oppression, black lives matter as well. It’s not meant to say that others don’t matter, but it’s meant rather as a reminder that black lives matter in a society that sometimes seems to have forgotten them.
College students should constantly be in pursuit of literacy and understanding. All college students are expected to be educated. As such, it’s important to understand the significance of Black History Month and the true meaning behind the Black Lives Matter movement.
And Rider does a great job in trying to uphold a diverse educational environment for all students. The student and faculty body is growing in diversity and there are classes on gender and race studies. A Multicultural Student Leadership Institute offers support for students of varying racial and cultural backgrounds. An entire living and learning community in Gee Hall helps international and national students live and thrive together. Rider pushes us to broaden our horizons culturally. So then, what’s the excuse for spreading prejudice or ill-informed ideas?
This month, Rider will be hosting an array of events celebrating Black History Month. To name a few, a Martin Luther King Day of Service will be held in the Cavalla Room at 3 p.m. on Feb. 12. On the Westminster campus on Feb. 17 at 7 p.m., an open discussion on race will be held in the Seabrook Lounge. A Spike Lee and African American Film symposium will be held Feb. 26 and 27 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Sweigart Auditorium.
With so many events and opportunities to stay educated on issues involving race and history, it’s imperative that Rider students take advantage of them. Do not stay close-minded. Diversify your learning. And even if you think you’re very open, broaden your vision even further. Misinformation always breeds misconceptions. Rider has offered each of us a chance to stay educated, especially during this month which recognizes some of the most impactful parts of American history. Don’t overlook these opportunities.
After all, the true way to fight ignorance is with education. You cannot learn from a book that was never given to you. Racism and prejudice do not solely stem from a desire to hurt — they come from the refusal to understand.
Junior journalism major
Printed in the 02/10/16 issue.