Tomorrow marks the beginning of Black History Month, an annual observance in the United States that celebrates the triumphs and acknowledges the struggles of the African American community and those of the larger African diaspora. Its goal is to educate the public about the contributions and achievements of Black people throughout history and to promote a greater understanding and appreciation of the diversity of Black cultures. It also serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for racial equality and social justice.
While Black History Month serves an important purpose, too often, we see companies, corporations, public figures, political leaders, and individuals use it for self-serving reasons. We see an increase in social media posts and official statements and donations, and a lot of PDA. (In this case, Public Displays of Awareness.) Awareness is good. Giving money to causes that promote equality and social justice is good. Standing up against bigotry and racism, and inequality is good.
But what about the other eleven months of the year?
Are those same companies, corporations, public figures, political leaders, and individuals putting their actions and their money where their mouths (and social media posts) are when it’s NOT Black History Month?
Are they still concerned with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the workplace?
Are they still concerned with the economic disparities in the African American community?
Are they still standing up to their peers who make racist jokes behind closed doors?
Are they still calling out discriminatory policies and practices?
Are they still supporting Black-owned businesses?
It’s easy to pay lip service in February and lead the general population to believe that they stand with those in the Black community.
But it needs to go beyond a singular month.
This Black History Month, pay attention to who is speaking out and speaking up. Thank them. And then challenge them for the rest of the year to honor those same convictions. Actual racial equality will never be achieved through part-time efforts. We must hold our leaders, our friends, and the companies and corporations we support accountable for their actions 365 days of the year.