Editorial: Black History Month a celebration of people
Feb 05, 2014 | 979 views | 0 0 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Since its 1976 acknowledgement by the U.S. government — an action that extended a weeklong observation to a full month — some have debated the relevance of Black History Month.

Some contend such a tribute is no longer necessary.

Some believe dedicating a period of time, of whatever length, to only one race or single culture is unfair to all others.

Some feel the practice is a form of discrimination — unintended or otherwise — against other Americans whose lineage is just as diverse, and pertinent, to the history of our proud nation.

One such criticism has been attributed to Morgan Freeman, a much-admired Hollywood actor and Memphis native who is a staunch humanitarian whose philanthropy is widely respected and who shares his home between residences in Charleston, Miss., and New York City.

And, Freeman is a black man — not exactly the accepted stereotypical opponent of a celebration established to honor people of a like color and culture.

This talented star, whose resume includes award-winning films like “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Million Dollar Baby,” “The Bucket List,” “Glory,” “Invictus” and a seemingly unending collection of others, has been quoted as saying of the February celebration, “I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.”

His point is well taken. His conviction appears unconditional. His heart is where it should be — in defense of country and in testament to America’s melting pot of roots which travel deep and wide.

Not exactly a man of understated beliefs, Freeman once told CBS newsman Mike Wallace in an interview for “60 Minutes” that the only way to end racism is to stop talking about it. He told Wallace, “I am going to stop calling you a white man and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man.”

Again, his opinion his spot on and his views hopefully will continue to open a straighter path through the still murky waters of race relations. Yet, we remain a generation or more away from this ideal state. Talking with students today — from elementary to middle to high school and college, and into a new wave of young adults — offers true encouragement that those days of “them” and “us” are fading.

We hope so, and we look to warm hearts, fresh eyes and open minds to sustain this expanding tolerance ... and acceptance.

Truly, today’s America is a different America. We remain a land of the free and a home of the brave, but our brave no longer come in just a couple of colors. We are white. We are black. We are brown. We are yellow. We are red. We are many.

And we still have much work to do.

Through the spirit of our young people, and with guidance from their elders whose experiences in life have given them a rare insight and blessed wisdom, it will be done. All will be accomplished.

Change will set all Americans free, but its foundation must be built upon remembrance.

With due respect to Freeman — a man who is making a difference in America in action and in word — we still cling to the views we have expressed for the past three years during Black History Month. It is not a tribute to a color of skin. It is a recognition of contribution. It is an acceptance of different ways. It is an exploration of common ground.

Our perspective on Black History Month — which we expressed in the editions of this newspaper dated Feb. 3, 2011, Feb. 10, 2012, and again on Feb. 10, 2013 — remains unchanged.

On those occasions, we wrote:

“Black History Month goes far beyond the observance of the color of skin of a man or woman.

“Black History Month is a celebration of the human race.

“Black History Month is a tribute to contribution.

“Black History Month is a sensitive portrayal of family, love and tolerance.

“Black History Month is a voyage whose winding road leads its travelers to a place of understanding.

“Black History Month is a realistic view of America as seen through idealistic eyes.

“Black History Month is empathy.

“Black History Month is sympathy.

“Black History Month is people honoring the value of other people.

“Black History Month is awareness founded on the strength of knowledge.

“Black History Month is diversity.

“Black History Month is pride.

“Black History Month is healing.

“Black History Month is appreciation.

“Black History Month is taking the lessons learned from yesterday and applying them to life today in the hope of opening doors of enlightenment tomorrow.”

We respect Morgan Freeman’s views — that if we stop talking about it, racism could eventually die a much-deserved death. He is a good man whose views likely parallel those of others.

But we also embrace another familiar adage in humanity, one that reminds us, “You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.”

Black History Month is not about doubt nor does it undermine the collective of American history.

Black History Month is about humanitarianism and the nurturing of its glow among all people who once judged by color of skin and not through purity of heart.

It’s about all men.

It’s about all women.

It’s about hope.

It’s about dreams.

It’s about life.

Perhaps one day Black History Month will be stored among dust-covered chronologies from our past.

But that time is not now.

Many activities await our community’s embrace in the coming days. We urge all to partake. And we ask all to learn, and to embed those lessons learned into the hearts of our children and into the souls of our children’s children.