Celebrating differences this month and always

Being proud of who you are is never a bad thing. In this day and age, it can be the difference between self-acceptance and hating yourself for who you are. In the month of February, Americans across the board celebrate Black History Month and black heritage.

There has been a rich history with black Americans, but now, more than ever, is the time to celebrate people of color for their souls and who they are. There are many great individuals that the common American has heard of—and loves. For example, Marin Luther King Jr., Malcom X and even Rosa Parks all have an influence on what we have shaped America to be.

At Maryville College, we highlight diversity and celebrate the fact that we are all so vastly different. Even though one of those differences is skin color, the students, faculty and staff pride themselves in the fact that they value each other’s differences on an individual level. Prejudice comes in many forms, but MC has taught us to value and uplift our differences as we enter the world around us.

Celebrating Black History Month means celebrating the individuals. Senior Ariel Burton speaks out about her own experiences growing up as a Black American.

“I didn’t really notice until middle school that I was really a minority…When middle school started, it was that turbulent time of making friend groups and pointing out differences such as music and then dress,” she states.

Burton highlights the experience many people have had. Children are often not prejudiced from birth; it is something they learn as they grow. When someone experiences that prejudice, they are often confused because children are not often taught to notice skin color first. Children are born with a good heart, but it is time and experience that taints the feelings inside them.

Burton says, “It wasn’t until I got a bit older that I realized it might have something to do with culture, or family background.”

Burton describes the feelings that many young black Americans have. Rather than it being a part of who they are, it becomes the identifier. She explained her trouble growing up was often her skin color because of the questions and judgement.

She states, “Being a ‘light-skinned girl’ people constantly ask if I’m biracial. Even when told no, especially as a child, they would sometimes ask me if I was sure.

This brings one of the foundational benefits of Black History Month, and human nature in general, is celebrating the differences. There is no one right skin tone for a black American, just like any other race. But for some reason, there is so much prejudice against Black Americans. Rather, self-acceptance is so vastly important for all humans.

“I love myself period, and [no one] needs to be questioning that,” Burton states.

Though many people see the relevance in Black History Month and learning about a culture they many not personally participate in, there are many people who disagree about learning about the rich culture that Black American’s have.

“History is never irrelevant. Things happened, people say things, and ideas are always traded. I believe that instead of trying to stuff things in dresser drawers or avoid it in fear of sensitive audiences, we should embrace it,” Burton states.

Burton explains how her family takes pride in who they are and embrace it each day. She explains that it is more than just a skin color; it is a culture and a sense of self and belonging. There is no right way and wrong way of living, but rather a way to embrace all of our differences as one.

“I am an African-American woman…. It means holding my head up. To be humble and proud of who I am and how I got where I am today. It means to be a guide to younger black girls and boys who are trying to find their identity as they mature.“

As the month continues, there are celebrations all around for black heritage. It is something to be proud of, not only for the individuals that are within that community, but those around them that want to celebrate who they are as people.

The history in the world has not been kind to them, and today we are in a place to rectify the wrongs and uplift people, not just because it is February, but because it is the human thing to do.

Burton says, “Inform each other. Listen to each other. Try your absolute best to love each other because you don’t get time back; you just don’t.”

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