February is Black History Month, and students at BYU-Idaho feel that racial ignorance is still a battle citizens face in today’s society.
Donnya Negera, vice president of the African American Association and a senior studying political science, said she feels it is important to recognize black figures in American and Latter-day Saint history because many people are not aware of their contribution.
Out of the 19,989 on-campus students attending BYU-I, 139 students are placed in the Black/African American bracket, according toBYU-I’s Official Enrollment Statistics.
Marvelyne Lamy, a sophomore studying English, said as a black woman, she loves the idea of Black History Month, but she would appreciate widespread enlightenment. She said if schools regularly taught black history, individuals in less diverse places would not be as susceptible to culture shock and ignorance.
“The earlier we learn about different cultures and diversities, the more likely we are to have a society without these racial barriers,” Lamy said.
Lamy said there are many ethnicities and cultures practiced in America but are not understood by the majority of citizens in America.
“Our nation has a long-standing history as far as its treatment of black people,” said Gloria Taylor, a junior studying psychology.
Taylor said there is a bad stigma about blacks that still circulates throughout the nation.
Lamy said talking about racism makes individuals uncomfortable because it forces them to evaluate themselves and their beliefs.
“The only way to make the future more positive for this country’s treatment of minorities is to talk about and learn about things that have been done in the past so that we can learn from them and avoid them in the future,” Taylor said.
Lamy said the first time she realized she was different for being black was when she began attending BYU-I because there was little diversity.
“At the school, I get a lot of people asking if I was raised in the ghetto and if both parents are in my life,” Lamy said. “I get told, ‘You’re smart for a black girl.’ I’ve had people touch me and say, ‘I’ve never touched a black person before.’”
Lamy said she faces prejudice all over. She said that in her hometown of Boston, she has had people scream at her and tell her to return to her country.
“This is my country,” Lamy said. “It is where I was born.”
African Americans make up about 14.3 percent of the total population in the U.S., according to Black Demographics, a website detailing statistics for the Black population.
“Black History Month is an appreciation of the great people who have done things for America,” said Cody Kunz, a sophomore studying computer information technology.
Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard historian who founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, first created Negro History Week in 1925 with hopes to alert individuals of the African American impact on the American society, according to African American History Month, a website dedicated to exhibiting African American history.
“Progressive whites, not simply white scholars and philanthropists, stepped forward to endorse the effort,” according to the African American History Month website.
Lamy said this nation has come a long way, but there are still improvements to be made.
“It’s been a long road — a long hard road to show this is what it’s like to be in an equality type situation, where everybody can stand on the same ground and be on a level playing field,” Kunz said.
Kunz said it is a good time to recognize the progress American society has made with accepting different cultures.
“It doesn’t need to be an extravagant thing,” Kunz said. “It is something to be observed. It’s a day where you sit and remember where we’ve come from in reverence. It’s not black versus white. It’s American.”
Carree Britt, a senior studying elementary education, said black Americans once felt inferior and mistreated and they made changes in society to alleviate those hardships.
Britt said that Black History Month can inspire other oppressed groups or individuals to make a difference if they do not like their situation.
“That is a good message to teach children,” Britt said.