This month is Black History Month, also known as the shortest month of the year, capping at a whopping 28 days. At Chapman, the celebration of Black History Month has sometimes fallen by the wayside, but this February is a little different.
The Black Student Union (BSU) has hosted events on campus this month in celebration, from talent shows, to a black history trivia night, to discussions about natural hair. This is progress, but keep in mind: Chapman has a well-documented diversity problem. Its black student population makes up just 1.7 percent of students, while more than half are white. There has been an increase in black students at Chapman since 2014 – but it’s by less than half a percent.
While it’s great that Chapman is allocating more time and exposure to events that celebrate black culture and history, the lack of people of color on campus is still an underlying issue.
Black History Month may be three days away from ending (did we mention it’s the shortest month of the year?), but recognizing the lack of diversity at Chapman and ongoing racial issues in the U.S. doesn’t have to end when the month does.
It’s also ironic that during the one month of the year designated for celebrating black history, news has broken of several people – elected officials, specifically – using blackface in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was pictured in blackface in a 1979 yearbook, with the person beside him in the photo wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe.
While some might want to push this under the rug, marginalization and discrimination toward the black community continue, no matter what the date is. So don’t let the appreciation of black history and culture fade away when the calendar dates change to March.
And at Chapman, we celebrate other clubs and organizations year-round, so why can’t we do the same for black students, a critically underrepresented minority?
“I wanted to do something on the big stage,” Naidine Conde, president of Black Student Union, told The Panther about BSU’s talent show. “Sororities and other fraternities get to have those kind of moments so we thought what better chance to celebrate that than Black History Month?”
Fraternities and sororities regularly fill Memorial Hall for events like Skit, Airbands, Delta Queen and Mr. Alpha Phi. But only 40 people attended the BSU talent show in Memorial Hall on Feb. 21.
Chapman, we can do better. Sure, the progress we’ve made in celebrating Black History Month is great. But the fact that we have a little more than 100 black students on a campus of more than 7,000 can’t be ignored. Just like black history should be celebrated all year round, increasing diversity and representation on campus and nationwide should be a constant effort.