Equity is a core value at AKA that we uphold in every contract, connection, and intention. We acknowledge that evaluators and researchers need to be more equitable, and we strive to be part of a movement that decolonizes evaluation using racial equity tools. Since 1976, every US president has designated February as Black History Month with a theme. This year’s theme is Black Resistance and how African Americans have resisted historical and ongoing oppression. We asked Curtis Hartley to write about his hopes and perspectives on what this month really means and how we can learn from history in our work.
We hear the words Black History Month every year in February, but what does that mean? Most people would say it’s simply the history of the African American race here in America, but they would be wrong. Black history is the past, present, and future of the African Americans of this nation. As of late many have rallied around topics like affirmative action, equitable hiring practices, and even equity in evaluation. But there are still groups in the US that say it’s unfair because it places African Americans ahead of the white population. Until recent history, whites have been in a position of power and have used oppressive acts, like those found in the 5 Faces of Oppression, to get to where they are today. No one can argue that those alive today are to be held responsible for what has happened in the past, but that also doesn’t exempt the government or the ancestors of those who caused this situation from righting a terrible wrong. Let’s talk about what this entails.
We could look back to when the government declared children born to a Black mom, Black, even if the father was white. This declaration was a big blow to an already enslaved people who, with time, could have become freed people, but special rules were made to stop this from ever happening. Black Women were used as breeding stock to create more enslaved people for the plantation owner. This can be traced to how Black women’s reproduction is still in danger, with Black women being over three times more likely to die during pregnancy than white women.
I’ve heard many people say Black communities can’t get their own affairs in order to be able to be seen as a group that can positively contribute to society. To this point, I’d like to point out what happens when Black communities “get their affairs in order.” Historically, when Black populations start to prosper or even congregate in a manner that would be considered prosperous, the government, local officials, and civilians destroy the community. One such example is the Tulsa massacre (Black Wall Street). This massacre is such a blot on Oklahoma’s history along with the US Government, and the families never received compensation for their losses.
The last thing I’ll bring up is the Tuskegee study. This study, to this day, accounts for why many Black people don’t trust doctors and would rather let a treatable disease fester. Compounding the issue is cost. Which in turn leads them down a spiral of debt that is almost impossible to get out of.
These things aren’t what most people think of when they think of Black History Month. Normally they think of people from the past and talk about what those people have done. I hope that people will think about Black History Month and how hard-fought it was to get freedom and equity in the US for African Americans. We must fight to keep these things that should be automatic and, at the same time, preserve the sacrifice of Black leaders to get us these changes like the assassinations of MLK and Malcolm X.