Students explain why studying the topic is important
By Bruce Beck, amarillo.com
Not the color of your skin but the goodness in your heart is what should define you as a person. But many people still judge you by the pigment of your skin, and that’s why studying black history is still important, said Amarillo middle-school students.
February is Black History Month and teachers emphasize the contributions made to history, culture, the arts and society by a segment of the population that has had to struggle to gain the same rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
“It’s important for everyone to know what (black Americans) went through (to gain equal rights),” said Idarius Ray, an eighth-grader at Horace Mann Middle School, during a roundtable discussion.
Discovering the many contributions of black Americans “shows we are all equal; that we overcame challenges to succeed,” said Julian Miller, a Mann eighth-grader.
“It also shows we can be educated and accomplish a lot, like our black leaders in the past,” said Chris Coffer, also a Mann eighth-grader.
“Black History Month honors all black people,” said Anthony Salazar, a seventh-grader at Crockett Middle School, during a discussion at the school.
“We’re now trying to respect black people as a community,” said Tristen Johnson, a Crockett eighth-grader.
“(Studying) black history is important because everyone needs to know what happened (in the past) so it won’t happen again,” said Dyonne Luke, a Mann eighth-grader. “Without history, history repeats itself.”
In the lifetimes of these children, race relations in the United States has been as good as it has ever been. But by studying black history, the students learn that it hadn’t always been that way.
“We take a lot for granted,” Coffer said. “We sometimes forget; they had it a lot harder than we do today.”
Leslie LaRue, a sixth-grader at Crockett, agreed. “In the past (black Americans) were treated so badly that it’s good to give them some respect (today).”
Every ethnic group has had to struggle to succeed in the United States, said Alex Alcala, a Crockett seventh-grader, and “all the struggles blacks went through show that we are all the same.”
Knowledge of black history has raised students’ awareness of some of the shortcomings of the adults around them and inspires them to do better in the future.
“Some of my relatives don’t vote because they think one vote doesn’t count,” said Ray. “It’s just laziness.”
“You hear (racist remarks) from adults (and you know it’s not right),” said Grace Douthitt, seventh-grader at Crockett.
“It’s unbelievable that you hear these comments,” said Aaron Woodard, a Crockett eighth-grader.
These students have developed two qualities that bode well for the future of this country: education and being able to look beyond the superficial.
“We need to push on through (racist attitudes),” Miller said. “Standing around (complaining) isn’t going to help. Praying is good, but God can’t do it by himself. We need to do it ourselves.”
“Just because we’re different colors (on the outside), we’re all the same inside,” said Alexis Nickleberry, a Crockett seventh-grader. “Kids have dreams and they know they have the chance to succeed.”
“It matters if they’re nice or mean, it’s not the color of their skin,” said Alec Gray, also a seventh-grader at Crockett. “It’s their attitude; it doesn’t matter what color the skin is.”
“I look at their hearts,” Nickleberry said. “That’s what you should look at.”
“We have the opportunity to change history,” Ray said. “But you’ve got to be willing to work hard; you can’t give up.”
“You’ve got to care about everyone,” said Danielle Starnes, a Crockett sixth-grader. “We’re all part of the (same) world.”
“(Segregation) was wrong but you’ve got to brush it off,” Coffer said. “We’ve got to push education, (then) you (can be) the writer of your own history.”