To The Editor:
February is Black History month. It’s good to set aside a particular time for celebration, provided that isolated time is not a “be all and end all” and doesn’t give people a subconscious green-light to forget about our debt of gratitude for the contributions of Black Americans during the other 11 months.
There are people who will exploit the commemoration for their own political gain and, in effect, be cynically trying to co-opt the legacy that they say they are honoring. Our acknowledgement must be non-partisan and all-embracing. Great men and women are not cloistered behind racial walls.
Let’s break the perhaps incriminating habit of highlighting only Black Americans who excelled in sports, entertainment or social activism. Ignoring mathematicians, engineers and scholars whose transcendent brilliance serves and does all humanity credit smacks of a racism that may not be as venal but is still patronizing.
And let’s all have the guts to judge people on their merits. Condemnation or praise should be expressed without fear or favor when it is prompted by behavior, regardless of race. It is not racist to criticize people unless that criticism was conceived and driven by racist impulse. Divine and diabolical conduct is an individual phenomenon and crosses all races without boundary. No person or group deserves a pass. Let the path of every person’s life speak for itself.
Genuine brotherhood will only be achieved when behaving in its spirit becomes first-nature. Maybe it’s unrealistic, but we should strive to no longer make even mental notes of a person’s race. What matters is what they do and the kind of person they are. No excuses and no exceptions, for better or for worse.
Circling dates on a calendar is a memory aid but the calendar must be enshrined in our hearts and reflected in all our transactions.
A thoughtful Black History Month to all your readers!