In 1976 as part of the United States Bicentennial, Black History Month was officially recognized by the U.S. government. President Gerald Ford called upon Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Forty years later, it seems like we need to focus our collective attention in other directions. Neglected accomplishments? Perhaps. But today – even with a black president in the White House – the general condition of African Americans seems to be in tragic decline.
Researchers claim that the infant mortality rate is twice as high for black children as for children in the nation as a whole. In the African American community, surveys show that 72 percent of black children are raised in a single-parent household.
African Americans constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population in the U.S. Blacks are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites. One in six black men has been incarcerated. And if current trends continue, one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime.
February is Black History Month. Should our nation celebrate the accomplishments of black Americans throughout our history? Certainly. But let’s also think about what we can do – each and every one of us – to fulfill the promise “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”