did baraCk obaMa end the
For blaCk history Month
With the election of President barack obama and the confirmation of eric holder, the
nation’s first black attorney general, it’s easy to assume there’s no need for a civil-rights movement or even black history Month. right?
Well, not quite, says dr. stephanie bush-baskette, rutgers University-newark
campus professor and director of the Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan studies.
incarceration rates remain disproportionately high for blacks and latinos—with black women and
latinas claiming the highest growth rate—and high-school dropout rates still remain extremely
high for blacks and latinos.
in an exclusive interview with DiversityInc, the former new Jersey legislator and criminal-justice
expert explains why obama’s victory doesn’t mean an end for black history Month or civil rights.
QDiversityInc In 2009, with a
Black president, a Black attorney general and a former Black
female secretary of state, why is
Black History Month still relevant?
aBush-Baskette Black History
Month is incredibly important
to fill in the blanks for that which
people don’t know or don’t realize
about Black people. It highlights the
role Black people have played in this
country, even this world. Where we
are at this moment is great, but the
history still needs to be understood
so people can better understand
what it took to get to this moment.
Many people know that there were
slaves and they may now know that
we have a Black president. But there
were a lot of things that happened in
between, including the Civil Rights
Movement, [and] also many accomplishments. It’s about honoring
those in high positions, but it’s also
about knowing those—and honoring those—who came before you.
QYou’ve studied race relations
and the criminal-justice system
for a number of years. But how
has the definition of “civil rights”
changed since the death of Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr.?
aWhen we are looking at the
conversation about civil rights,
in the post–Martin Luther King
era, I think the conversation today
is about an increased diversity and
there not being just one civil-rights
leader. I teach a course on race and
crime, and we talk about what is
race and what is crime. In my class,
when we talk about things, it is that
even with some of your older, non-traditional-aged students, many
weren’t around when Dr. King was.
The major diversity of the nation
also has forced the conversation
on civil rights to include many different avenues and factors. Today,