Why I Support Black History Month

Ruby Bridges

Ruby Bridges

In my role as parent I attempted to pass along one core belief to my daughter – empathy.

I wanted her to seek to understand life from another person’s point of view. If she embraces empathy in her life, I feel I accomplished something worthwhile because empathy is a powerful concept. It is living the old saying – before you judge someone walk a mile in their shoes.

Empathy is also one of the reasons I strongly believe in the need for Black History Month. As a white man living in a Congressional District that is predominantly Caucasian I have little interaction with people outside my race and have little real-life knowledge of the struggles related to being Black in America.

America’s Discriminatory Past

History is always told through the eyes of the ruling race, class or faction. When American history is seen through the eyes, of say Native Americans, (Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West) it is a significantly different history than the one I know as a Caucasian.

When my daughter was in sixth or seventh grade, she and I had the opportunity to visit the Cherokee Nation – a sovereign country located in Oklahoma. Inside the lobby of the Cherokee Nation Visitor Center a film about the Trail of Tears plays on a continuous loop. When we walked in an older woman, watching the film, overcome with emotion was crying.

As she spoke with a member of the Cherokee Nation, it was apparent she had come to understand the Trail of Tears from their perspective.

The tension between Blacks and Whites has never been resolved in this country. In 2016, serious levels of racial ignorance and racial hatred are still prevalent in the United States. During the past 12 months in my neighborhood the KKK distributed membership flyers with a third-grade level rhyme — Save our Land, Join the Klan.

But, it is not the Klan that I worry about. They have been marginalized to their proper place. I worry about a White culture that refuses to admit it has a problem.

87-Year-Old Victim Of Hate

Just last summer one of the vilest acts of hatred occurred when a racist white man killed nine members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. One of the victims, Susie Jackson, was 87. Both of my grandmothers lived to about the same age and I cannot fathom someone hating either one of them enough to shoot and murder them. I know if either were murder under such brutal conditions, I would struggle with forgiving the perpetrator and I would want action and answers.

But what unfolded after the death of those nine innocent victims was not a conversation on how to prevent such senseless acts of violence. Instead my Congressman paid lip service to the tragedy by attending the funeral while the House quietly banned a study looking into gun violence. On TV and on social media, the conversation was not about how do we address these acts of evil, instead the discussion was diverted to my Second Amendment Rights and whether or not I can fly a Confederate flag.

If my grandmothers were murdered, I would not be overly interested in people’s opinions on either of those issues.

I would want would be empathy because that would lead to action.

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