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As we stand on the threshold of Black History Month 2024, we are confronted with a sobering realization: the chapters of history we teach and commemorate are no longer just relics of the past. They are unfolding before our eyes, in the here and now. 

As a 5th grade US History teacher, and more importantly, as a young Black woman in America, I am compelled to raise a clarion call. The struggles, the injustices, the fights of our ancestors are not just stories; they have become our reality, our fight, our urgent responsibility.

Icons Defaced, Progress Derailed

The desecration of Jackie Robinson’s statue in Kansas is not a standalone act of vandalism; it is a vivid, painful manifestation of the racism that continues to plague our society. Robinson was more than a baseball legend; he was a beacon of hope and progress. His legacy, now tarnished in a public park, mirrors the broader societal corrosion we are witnessing – a regression into overt racism across our society and the embracing of historic negative and harmful stereotypes.

In Texas, the trial of student Darryl George over his dreadlocks is not just a legal battle; it’s a direct assault on our identity and freedom. This isn’t merely about hairstyle preferences; it’s about systemic oppression, about a society attempting to dictate and control Black bodies, reminiscent of the darkest periods of our history. 

Our History, Our Playbook

Our history books are filled with stories of courage and resistance, but today, these aren’t just lessons – they are our playbook. 

The cancellation of cultural graduation ceremonies at the University of Texas and the undermining of African American studies in education across our nation are not minor policy shifts; they are strategic moves to erase our presence, our voice, and our history. It’s an attempt to whitewash our past and, by extension, mute our future.

The shameful remarks by Republican presidential contender Nikki Haley on the root causes of the Civil War are not mere political missteps; they are indicative of a dangerous trend to rewrite and sanitize our history. To obscure the truth about slavery is to deny the foundation upon which our fight for equality is built. 

Haley presses on after New Hampshire loss | A Call to Action and Resilience in Black History Month 2024
Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley talks to students, parents and educators during a campaign stop at the Polaris Charter School, Friday, Jan. 19, 2024, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Credit: Charles Krupa / AP

Challenging Baseless Narratives

In recent times, we have also witnessed an alarming and baseless narrative that attributes failures in highly technical and critical sectors – aviation and military operations – to the supposed incompetence of Black professionals. These accusations are not just dangerously misleading; they are rooted in the same racist stereotypes that have long sought to undermine the qualifications and capabilities of Black individuals. 

Such narratives serve as a stark reminder of the systemic biases that persist in our society, echoing the unfounded assumptions of inferiority that our forebears have tirelessly fought against.

These groundless claims about Black professionals in aviation and the military are more than just unfair; they are a direct attack on the legacy of excellence and resilience that defines Black history. They attempt to discredit the progress we have made and the heights we have reached, despite the numerous obstacles placed in our path. This is not a new battle; it is an old prejudice rearing its ugly head in modern guise.

We must confront and challenge these narratives with the same fervor and truth that dismantled segregation and combated voter suppression. Our response to such slander is not merely in defense of our current generation but a stand for the dignity and respect of every Black individual who has contributed immeasurably to the fabric of this nation.

A Call to Action in Black History Month

This Black History Month, we face a critical question: Will we let these developments be mere footnotes in history, or will we rise to meet them with the same resolve that our ancestors showed in their time? Our ancestors fought not just for their present but for our future. Today, we must honor that legacy by fighting not just for ourselves but for the generations to come.

We must make history ourselves and engage in this year’s elections not just as voters, but as advocates for justice, as defenders of truth, and as warriors against the erosion of our hard-won rights. The battles for voting rights, for control over our bodies, for the preservation of our cultural heritage – these are the battles that will define our era.

Rallying Cry for Action

Let’s remember that Black History Month is not a passive commemoration but a rallying cry for action. Our history is a testament to resilience and strength in the face of adversity. Now, as we witness the resurgence of old battles, it’s time for us to rise and take our place in this ongoing struggle. It’s time to turn our commemoration into action, our history lessons into life lessons, and our collective memory into a collective movement.

Let’s not wait for future generations to reflect on how we missed our moment. Let’s ensure they look back on this time as a moment when we stood tall, fought back, and carved our rightful place in the annals of history – not just as beneficiaries of our ancestors’ struggles but as worthy successors who carried their legacy forward with honor and determination.

Haley Taylor Schlitz, 21, is the youngest Black person and youngest woman to earn a law degree in U.S. history. At 19, she graduated from the SMU Dedman School of Law and previously, at age 16, became...

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  1. Your article gives excellent account of contemporary racism. With this summarized, it points to a foreshadowing of the 2024 presidential election. No excuses when racism is exhibited and enforced throughout. Intimidation of voting public, election workers and the box. “Rally to action”. NOW!

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