Monday, February 22, 2016

Some final thoughts on Black History Month . . .

The idea I had -- of writing two articles a day, one on an African-American "off the beaten path", so to speak, and the other about a white person active in civil rights or abolition--was a good one. However, I bit off more than I could chew.  That's why I stopped writing in about the middle of the month.

The concept, though, is promising, and maybe there are other ways I can pursue it.  There's more to black history than Martin Luther King, Barack Obama, and sports and entertainment figures.

While researching people for Black History Month, I came across several references to the "condescending and patronizing" attitudes of whites in the abolitionist movement towards blacks.  That comment made me stop and think.

I'm a white Southern woman.  I was born in the South, raised in the South, and live in the South.  I want badly to understand--to the best of my ability--the background of black history.  But I also worry that I may be guilty of those "patronizing and condescending" attitudes towards blacks.

A quote I read from someone summed up the civil rights movement as:  "Rosa Parks sat down, Martin Luther King stood up, and the white folks came in and saved the day."  There is a lot more to black history than that.  In the civil rights movement, there were the Claudette Colvins who sat down long before Rosa Parks did.  There were also the white people, like Mickey Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, who worked in Mississippi and were murdered because of their work.  In the abolitionist movement, there were those who helped blacks escape slavery and those who spoke and wrote against it.

I wrote this series because I'm tired of hearing about the "go-to" people in black history.  I want to hear about blacks and whites who contributed to the rich history of African-Americans in this country.  And I think people should know about those blacks and whites--those whose names aren't always mentioned in history classes, and yet who shared their talents and gifts with us.

I am also tired of white people being cast as "the enemy" and black people being cast as "ignorant thugs".  Make no mistake:  We do have a terrible and tragic history of racism and prejudice in this country.  There are white people that have been guilty of crimes against blacks solely because of hate and prejudice.  See Emmett Till; Selma, Alabama; Jim Crow laws; slavery; and others.  And I think there's so much emphasis (at least in my view) on the black experience because it was not until the mid-1960's that legalized discrimination was finally outlawed.  Although it's true that other minority groups--and some white groups--were victims of discrimination, most of them weren't the victims of blatant, legalized discrimination, nor were they bought and enslaved to the extent that blacks were.

(If you doubt that whites were historical victims of discrimination, look up the acronym NINA.  And if you doubt that Asian were ever victims of discrimination, check the immigration laws in the late 1800's to the mid-1900's.  Also, read a history of Japanese internment camps.)

On the other hand, there are blacks who do behave as thugs.  I'm sorry to say that, but it is true.  I think there are blacks who exploit the past history of African-Americans for their own selfish purposes.  I think there are some blacks who threaten to holler "racism!" in order to get their own way, and people cave in because they don't want to be thought of as racist.

And I also think there are whites who exploit the racial divide in this country to stoke the fires of fear and hate as well.

When are we going to truly fulfill the dream of Martin Luther King, who wanted people to be judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin?

Let's start now.  Let's look beyond the stereotypes and attempt to see the person and not the skin color.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

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