Opinion: The importance of honoring Black History Month amid continued GOP attacks on BIPOC communities

By Lucy Ripp

February 13, 2024

February marks Black History Month in Wisconsin and across the nation. Over the next month, many Wisconsinites will explore and reflect on Black history, engage in important conversations, and work on building a Wisconsin where Black history and stories are taught in our schools, where Black communities can safely thrive, and where everyone is guaranteed equal rights and freedoms.

To make the Badger state a safer, better place for Black Wisconsinites, it’s important to hold this space and momentum not just in February, but all year long – taking it a step further by not only reckoning with the past, but using what we’ve learned to invest in the present and future. 

In 2024, part of that work will mean standing up to politicians who are trying to censor Black history curriculum in Wisconsin schools, ban books, make it harder for voters of color to have their voices heard, and attack DEI and other programs meant to give BIPOC communities equal opportunities to thrive in our state.

Wisconsin Republicans kicked off Black History Month this year by advocating for changing our state constitution to limit DEI efforts across the state, and another GOP bill that would attack financial aid programs meant to close gaps in access to higher education for Black communities in Wisconsin.

This comes after Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos attempted to block hard earned pay raises for thousands of Wisconsinites as a bargaining chip to eliminate DEI initiatives at Wisconsin universities, before signaling more of the same attacks to come as he declared he’s, “not done yet” trying to stifle diversity and equity across the state.

Additionally, Vos’s legislative counterpart over in the state Senate – Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu – has refused to take action against his appointee to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, Bob Spindell, for openly bragging about suppressing Black voters in 2022, even after repeated calls from constituents to have Spindell removed. 

Another handful of GOP legislators in our state are pushing legislation that would discourage schools from teaching the real, yet hard truths of our country’s past and would encourage people to sue teachers and districts for engaging students on topics that impact Black, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized communities.

All children deserve to see themselves in their school curriculum, and as Wisconsinites, we all want our kids to have an honest and accurate education and know that our BIPOC friends and neighbors are afforded equal opportunities to succeed and have an equal say in decisions that impact our communities.

This Black History Month and beyond, we can stand together to protect our communities and ensure equality for all by holding those in power accountable.

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