February is Black History Month, in the United States. It is Black History Month in some other places too, but the focus of this blog entry is Black History Month in America, especially in the Southern United States. Before I start writing, I want to publish a couple of pictures. Please take the time out your busy schedule, reflect on these pictures, and ponder their deeper meaning.
Growing up in the deep south, I have witnessed my share of bigotry. However, I consider myself fortunate to have attended school, from the First Grade on, in integrated classes. Even when my parents took me out of the public school system, I was placed in a Catholic School, and there was no segregation there. I know no other way than integration, and I am very grateful for the sacrifices of so many people, so that I can live in a better society. It is my hope that my generation leaves an even more enlightened, and inclusive society, to the next generation, and they will continue the good fight of an enlightened, and inclusive society, knowing no bigotry.
As I grew up, I learned in history classes about slavery, and the Civil War. The one item that was conspicuously absent from the public school curriculum, at that time, was subject matter relating to the Civil Rights Act. Absent from the curriculum were the struggles that took place, to enable persons of color, to vote freely, ride wherever they wanted on public transportation, drink from a water fountain that whites used, eat in a restaurant, and the many other struggles against shameful atrocities committed against black people, because of their desire for equal rights, and access under the law. The riots, beatings, cross burnings, intimidation, murders, kidnappings, and all of the other brutal acts committed against black people were not covered in my public school history/social studies lessons. I was pulled from public school for a couple of years, and placed in a Catholic School, because my parents did not think I was being properly educated. It was the best move they could have made for me. My reading skills were in the lower tier, and the great teachers at Holy Rosary brought me up to a college reading level. Thankfully, they also saw to it I was educated about this terrible chapter, in the history of the United States, as well as other despicable chapters, in the history, of not only America, but the World. I am grateful for the foundation laid early on in my life. A foundation of integration, and tolerance.
Even though I was being educated in an integrated environment, I still was witness to some nasty deeds done in the name of racism. I remember seeing a white boy beat a black boy for simply riding his bicycle on a certain street. I was much younger than both of them, but I remember feeling sorry for the black boy. He was just riding his bicycle. He was not hurting anyone. The entire attack was due to ignorance. The white kid was copying what he saw white adults doing. I would hate to have been the example that kid was following. That single event turned me off to racist attacks, and racism.
As a people we still have some work to do. In some ways we seem to be going backwards when it comes to race relations, and in others we seem to be advancing. I strongly believe racism is due to ignorance. People are not born hating other races. Ignorance begets prejudice. Kids also copy what they see their parents do. It is a shame that we still have racism in this nation. One would hope the struggles of the past would be enough to bring it to an end once and for all. We must insist our school districts teach more black history than they currently do, especially in the deep south. One month out of the year is not enough to teach black history. There is so much to cover; Slavery, the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, Reconstruction, Military contributions/sacrifices in all wars from the Civil War to the current war against terror, medical advances (Dr. Drew, for starters), musical influences, civil rights struggle, Civil Rights Act, and much, much more. Proclaiming one month as Black History Month is not adequate to the challenge of teaching Black History. Perhaps one day Black History will be on par with White History, and the History Books will be balanced. Until then, more needs to be done by schools to teach Black History.
I was raised in a Christian home. The Bible was, and still is the final authority, on all matters, for me. The Bible says we are all made in the image of God. How any person of faith could twist the Bible to put a race down, and try to keep them down is beyond me; however, people did just that, and continued to do so for some time. Unfortunately prejudice still has a place in churches to this day. Even in churches that have a mixed congregation, one does not have far to look to find racism. The church is supposed to be a sanctuary of love, and a place founded by Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, we still hear the whispers, amongst both races, one putting the other down. Not to single any particular faith out, but a here are a couple of examples, of how racism still affects our Christian churches. In most Southern towns there is a Baptist Church that is majority white, and one that is majority black, because of a split in the church over slavery a long time ago. This rift is supposedly over, but come Sunday mornings things appear to have changed only nominally. Another example of racists days gone by is how the Mormons (Latter Day Saints) did not allow black men into the priesthood until the 1970s. In my humble opinion all churches have a responsibility to teach their members the Biblical truth that all of us are created in the image of God. Since we are all created in His image, we should love one another, uplift each other, and never put people down because of the pigmentation of their skin, or for any other reason.
We still have a long way to go. Dialogue is the only way we are going to be able to work through the ignorance. It is ignorance that causes a person to have racists views. Educating our children about these matters is of paramount importance. Teaching tolerance, and respect through our words, as well as our deeds are the best ways to teach a lesson this important. The ways of the past need to remain buried, but not forgotten, lest they find their way back to a position of prominence in our lives.
May You Have Peace In Your Life,
Source for Second Pic – 3 men in chains – North Park University Chicago