22222222Addressing challenges and upholding rights: a National Black Family Month perspective

By Gloria Jiang

July marks the celebration of National Black Family Month, a time of recognizing and upholding the significance of Black families. First established in 2006, National Black Family Month was designed to foster the growth of families through education, health, and self-improvement. Black families often plan reunions and get together with important family members as a way to bond and share deeper thoughts. This may include hosting a family game night, going on a family picnic, having a movie/BBQ night, or volunteering in the community.

This special occasion serves as a reminder to provide emotional support to family members, share experiences and reflections, and to nurture and inspire the next generation. As we honor the resilience, culture, and enduring strength of Black families, it is equally important to acknowledge the unique challenges they are facing today. This recognition forms the cornerstone for societal commitment in securing, protecting, and advancing their rights. 

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

In the United States, Black families grapple with a host of systemic obstacles that affect various aspects of life, from education and employment to housing and health care. When we consider education, Black students often face an unequal playing field. They are sometimes relegated to under-resourced schools, with limited access to advanced courses, experienced teachers, and extracurricular opportunities. This disparity creates a hurdle for academic success and future opportunities.

Economic disparities persist due to a history of discriminatory practices. In the employment realm, Black Americans often face a greater likelihood of unemployment or underemployment, along with a persistent wage gap. On some occasions, Black workers may find themselves occupying positions that are inconsistent with their high level of education, and they face challenges in receiving promotions at the same rate as their white counterparts. The disparity in opportunities begins with biases in the hiring process and extends to a lack of representation in higher-level, higher-paying positions. As a result, the wealth gap between Black and white families continues to widen, hindering the ability of Black families to build generational wealth.

Housing discrimination remains a critical issue as well. Historically, redlining policies have confined many Black families to underdeveloped neighborhoods with limited access to essential services. These policies continue to have lasting effects today, as many Black families struggle to access affordable, quality housing in safe, well-resourced neighborhoods. The challenges in housing in return impact Black families’ access to health care services due to factors such as cost, transportation, or a lack of providers in their communities. Moreover, Black Americans frequently experience lower quality of care and higher rates of morbidity and mortality for several health conditions, including pregnancy and giving birth. In the U.S, it is reported that African Americans have higher uninsured rates than whites and Asian Americans, even after the Affordable Care Act was enacted. This has been especially highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted Black communities. 

But why is it of paramount importance that we all, regardless of our own racial or ethnic backgrounds, care about the plight of Black families? Fundamentally, we must understand that the prosperity and well-being of our society as a whole is inextricably tied to the well-being of every community within it. Neglecting the struggles faced by Black families does not only affect them; it weakens the entire fabric of our society. More crucially, their struggles for justice and equality have consistently served as the impetus for broad social change benefiting all Americans. Hence, it is critical to support Black families in securing, protecting, and advancing their rights, and this involves active engagement from individuals, communities, and institutions at all levels. 

Firstly, we can advocate for and support policy changes at the local, state, and federal levels. This could include endorsing policies that aim to reduce the education gap such as investing in schools in under-resourced areas, implementing hiring practices that actively combat employment discrimination, supporting health care reform that increases access to quality care, and pushing for housing laws that counteract historical and ongoing discrimination. Being politically active, voting, and holding elected officials accountable for addressing these issues are key.

Secondly, societal attitudes must evolve to acknowledge and challenge systemic racism and unconscious biases. This requires education and intentional dialogue on racism and its impact on Black families. Schools, workplaces, religious institutions, and community groups can host diversity trainings, discussions, and workshops to facilitate understanding and empathy. Social media can also serve as a powerful tool in spreading awareness and information. Nowadays, supporting Black-owned businesses is a prevalent and concrete way to empower the Black community economically. Encouraging investment in these businesses, and promoting them within one’s network can stimulate economic growth and help close the racial wealth gap.

Addressing these systemic challenges necessitates a comprehensive, multi-level approach aimed at dismantling the structures that perpetuate racial inequality. As we observe National Black Family Month, let us all commit to standing with Black families in their journey towards equality and justice. By doing so, we not only fortify the foundation of the Black community, but also weave a more robust and inclusive society for all.