As we enter into Black History Month, it’s essential for Americans to recognize and respect cultural heritage months.

Many would argue Black History Month only lengthens the racial divide more; some would argue we need to celebrate diversity every day of the year, not just one month out of the year. I most definitely agree. Though, an issue that keeps recurring is how America hasn’t incorporated the importance of all American minorities in society, especially through legal and social justice.

A prominent example of American injustice is the ignorance many have of the racial divide, particularly in accordance with Black Lives Matter.

BLM began as a social movement in 2013 and gained major traction in 2014, after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. Since then, BLM has advocated for legal and social justice for violence against black people. After public attention called for action, other movements began to spring up the same year.

All Lives Matter began as a counter-protest to BLM because some took it as placing special interest to black lives than all lives. As we know, that’s far from the truth. The founders of BLM, and general public, understand all lives matter. The point of the social movement is to bring awareness to the plights of black people in the U.S.

BLM specifically says their mission began as a means to “build local power and to intervene when violence was inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.” That doesn’t just include the international organization’s leaders, but BLM advocates for all people to intervene when they see injustice. For All Lives Matter to begin as a hashtag and a social movement negates the purpose of BLM and undermines the goal for equality.

Another social movement that began in the same year as BLM was Blue Lives Matter. This movement began Dec. 20, 2014, after the homicides of NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.

For a long time I thought Blue Lives Matter was yet another means to counterprotest BLM. I would argue for some, when someone supports Black Lives Matter, others take it as a message to say, “Police officer lives don’t matter.” Again, that’s far from the truth of BLM’s mission statement, and after some research, I found Blue Lives Matter began as honorably as BLM did.

I respect the message of Blue Lives Matter, truthfully, but there’s a stark difference between the two political movements, though sometimes they cross paths for supporters on both sides. Police officers experience injustice, too; many don’t respect the police and will attack officers, sometimes killing them. In comparison to BLM, though, police officers enter the force understanding the dangers of their career. It’s a risk they take, and I give my respect to those who enter the force with good intentions. Being black in America shouldn’t be a danger to someone’s life.

The cultural divide between these movements is when bad police officers enter the force without the moral responsibility that should be accounted for in any position of power. The badge doesn’t strip racism from a person, and it is the legal responsibility of police forces, government and the general public to hold officers accountable when they unlawfully or unnecessarily arrest or kill black people, or any people for that matter.

The statistics show the racial gap in prisons and in fatalities from police shootings. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2016 black people made up 12 percent of the American population and 33 percent of black people in the prison system, compared to 30 percent of white people. According to Vice News reporting, blacks were found to make up 55 percent of shooting victims; black people shot by police were more likely to be shot during encounters that began with a traffic or pedestrian stop. Vice also found black people were no more likely to be armed with a gun than whites but less likely to be armed with any weapon.

America’s white majority society tends to overlook the race gap. These current issues are why Black History Month matters. It’s necessary to acknowledge race in a country that is so racially diverse with a society that continues to overlook (conscious or subconscious) racist action.

Learning more about black history, and likewise black excellence, allows a chance for America to reduce the race gap that prevents people from full equality in American law and society. Black History Month gives people an opportunity to become more culturally aware of privilege, racial injustice and moral responsibility of the individual to further equality.