By James Hull and Ed Holliday
Point – James Hull
With February being Black History Month, I’m taking the opportunity to call for an open and honest dialogue on the many issues of race.
One goal would be to assert that most of our differences are not racial, they are cultural. It’s not skin color which divides us, it’s the lack of knowledge and the refusal to accept and appreciate our different cultures and identities.
Which brings me to this: Let’s have an open and honest exchange about why black people celebrate Black History Month in the first place.
From the perspective of black people, it’s because even though we had been in this country for 400 hundred years, we didn’t begin to know our history until Dr. Carter G. Woodson began his monumental task of documenting our contributions to the growth and development of this country. These contributions, documented by patents and copyrights, range from America’s only original art forms – blues, jazz, spirituals and gospel music – to the countless examples of black ingenuity and genius: refrigeration, air brakes, blood plasma bags, open heart surgery, the fire extinguisher. All have unquestionably helped make this country what it is.
These are things which should be celebrated as sources of pride for a people who came to this county in chains and weren’t allowed to even read until about 150 years ago.
What I don’t understand is why there’s so much fear/animosity/resentment toward black pride. We celebrate Italian pride, revel in Irish pride, and go to great lengths to preserve Southern pride. But for black people to celebrate pride in their contributions to art, literature, technology and the like, is offensive to some. Why?
Furthermore, why is it when black people espouse the philosophy of self-sufficiency, self-determination, as they should, they are maligned as either unpatriotic or racists?
We should applaud and appreciate black Americans for coming so far in such a short time. And work to dispel the stereotypes that most black people are shiftless, gang-banging, felonious sluggards who only want welfare and drugs.
Nothing is farther from the truth. And it’s nothing a little open and honest dialogue can’t change.
Counterpoint – Ed Holliday
James, you make great points. But instead of a little dialogue I think we could use a lot.
You and I know that Mission Mississippi’s Neddie Winters says, “Race matters but grace matters more.” So I applaud you for taking the opportunity this month to reach out to everyone with Black History Month. Dr. Alveda King (niece of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) taught me that there is only one race – the human race. You are correct, James, most of our differences are cultural. And let me say that black history is American history.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I took my family to the Ida B. Wells museum in Holly Springs. Mississippi is inundated with gold mines of history, but sometimes Mississippians don’t fully appreciate what we have in our state and our potential to see, hear, touch, taste and feel first hand how history has shaped who we are. Although I am not black, black history is my history, too. Thank goodness that God is not finished shaping us yet.
The Bible says, “Wisdom is more precious than rubies.” Why I wanted to visit the museum was because I once had a conversation with the late great civil rights leader Dr. Benjamin Hooks. He told me how his grandmother sat with Ida B. Wells and Frederick Douglass as they watched plays in Memphis.
The love of history called me to go beyond my comfort zone in my quest for knowledge. Indeed, I am now wiser than I once was because I am mining the gold from the rich veins of history – which are there for all who seek. An educated person is not necessarily one who has many diplomas, rather it is one who has developed a thirst for knowledge that does not cease.
All Americans (and the world) live richer lives because of black Americans – especially black Mississippians. Celebrating Black History Month is only a step on a journey to live more abundantly. Mississippi knows great artists. I encourage all students to understand that the best songs have yet to be written, the best stories have yet to be told, and the best Mississippi has yet to unfold.
Study hard; dream big.
Dr. Ed Holliday is a Tupelo dentist who has written two successful books. Contact him at email@example.com. James Hull is an award-wining journalist and a political consultant. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.