Black History Month was officially recognized in 1976 and has taken place in February every year since. As we entered the first week of March, our staff discussed the importance of celebrating Black culture outside of Black History Month and our place within those celebrations as a team of non-Black students.
We can’t discuss Black culture without acknowledging the fact that we currently do not have any Black students on our paid staff. Reiterating what our former editor-in-chief Julian Sorapuru pointed out in his op-ed in this issue, we recognize there are flaws in our coverage regarding USF’s Black population. Our conversations and content lack Black perspective as a result. While Foghorn articles are open for all students to write and are based on voluntary interest, we feel that we must improve our outreach to include more Black students, and report on groups of all backgrounds.
We also see a discrepancy between the fact that USF is ranked first place for student ethnic diversity in the country (tied with three other universities), and our lack of Black writers at the Foghorn. Our pages should reflect USF’s diverse student body. The Foghorn’s academic advisor, Professor Teresa Moore, a professional Black journalist, has reminded our staff of the importance of creating a space for writers from varying backgrounds, especially those that are of the minority.
Underrepresentation of minorities in newsrooms is a national problem. In 2018, the Columbia Journalism Review reported that while racial and ethnic minorities make up about 40% of the U.S. population, they only comprise 17% of newsroom staff. Minorities also make up only 13% of leadership positions in newsrooms. According to the Review, this goes against a pledge made by the American Society of News Editors in 1979 which stated that by 2000, “the percentage of racial and ethnic minorities in newsrooms would match that of the population at large.” With an awareness of this disparity, we are compelled to make more space for diverse writers in our own pages.
Confronting these problems within our staff helped us reflect on the value of Black History Month and the opportunities it creates for Black appreciation. However, the celebration of Black culture should not be confined to 29 days. Black history is American history, and we interact with Black culture on a daily basis. Black culture laid the foundation for many major cultural movements in the United States. For example, whenever someone listens to rock ’n’ roll or country music they’re listening to the branches of a tree that Black musicians planted, the roots being in Black American music like gospel, jump blues, jazz, and rhythm and blues. So much of what is considered contemporary, popular culture in America is Black culture. As non-Black students, we should constantly be reflecting on the creators and originators of the media, art, and trends that are produced in this country, because so often Black creators’ credit and recognition have been diminished.
Every time we celebrate American art or popular culture, we should be celebrating Black creators. Black History Month serves as a reminder to immerse ourselves in the art and media produced by Black creators, visiting museums and reading about Black history, and most importantly, supporting Black artists, business owners, authors, musicians, friends, and family.
Additionally, Black History Month should serve as a reminder for non-Black students to reflect on their own privilege and the ways they inadvertently contribute to white supremacy in their daily lives. America is still plagued by the racism and white supremacy built into our institutions and politics. Schools in 13 states are limiting education on Black history and ignoring the atrocities committed by the founding of the country we live in. On our own campus, there have been acts against Black students that point to the racism that explicitly exists here. However, outside of the explicit racism we see, we must force ourselves to recognize the subtle racism that we contribute to, partake in, and the practices ingrained in us. We need to continue to educate ourselves on these issues and practice anti-racism on all fronts.
This needs to extend further than simply reposting something we see circulating on social media. As non-Black students, we will never fully understand what it means to be Black. In order for us to be more empathetic individuals, it is essential to celebrate Black history continuously. This, in turn, will help us be better journalists, and run a paper that can ethically and objectively report on stories that affect and are representative of all people.
We must pick up where Julian left off with efforts of connecting with Black students on Black issues and stories on campus. We must push to continue his work and consult a focus group of Black students regarding how to better cover Black issues and engage Black writers, just as he hoped to do in his time at the Foghorn. As a staff composed of non-Black students, we need to ensure that Black voices are represented on our team and in our content.