I often see comments on social media from people I know, good people that are charitable in nature on almost every aspect of life, question the need for posts that deal with America's history of slavery. I've seen responses to such posts that go something like this: "Sorry I'm white, but that was long ago and I had little to do with it, so, no, I don't see it as relevant today."
Perhaps from their life experiences or that of their parents, who may have been descendants of European immigrants to America, the slavery issue in their eyes appear to be something very remote and the need to continue reminding the public via media venues are totally unnecessary in 21st Century America.
However, there are many, be they white, black, brown, red or yellow in skin pigment who point to the elephant that still resides in the corner of the room. That elephant has a memory that can't forget the industrial application of a slave trade that thrived for over two and a half centuries but also the after-effects of an institution that still permeates America today. One need look no farther than white privilege that is very real.
As someone who is white, I have little concern that a traffic stop might be the ignition to my loss of life, however, that same innocuous moment in time for me is viewed by men of color as potentially lethal. The perceived threat that a life might be worth less if it is a life that embodies pigment may be a direct result of a system that devalued the worth of an individual. If you think I'm overstating this, I advise anyone to read Article I, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution of 1787 in which slaves are regarded as three-fifths of an individual. There are those who try to dismiss this as nothing more than how such slaves should be counted for the census and for representation in Congress at the time, but ask yourself, "Would you want to be counted as a person worth only 60% in human value?"
During Black History Month it might be apropos to celebrate the power and spirit of the child who stood up to the taunts and despicable behavior that included being spat at, having her food in the cafeteria defiled and even the failure of teachers to recognize her willingness to participate in class.
That person is still alive today and continues to speak out over racial injustice and often meets with students to discuss the struggle for civil rights for African-Americans.
The power of the photo moved James Baldwin, one of America's premiere authors of the 20th Century, to leave a relatively peaceful life in France, where he was celebrated, to return to the United States to take part in Dr. Martin Luther King's marches and protests. The photo was one of many from the era that showed children subjected to the bigotry of not only other children but their parents who often lead the initiative to maintain segregation as a way of life. When you segregate, you lose out on the diversity of culture and the rich history that comes with every nationality - including an amazing cornucopia of food delicacies, which ironically Americans have embraced through the ages with little prejudice despite who originated the recipe.
Dorothy Counts-Scoggins now has a school named after her for her act of incredible courage at the tender age of having just turned 15 when her trial by fire rocked her world and found its way on the front pages of newspapers disseminated in foreign capitals all over the globe. This photo and those from Birmingham showing large German shepherd police dogs oppressing protestors seeking the same rights as a White America had impact. Eventually the public outcry against such savagery lead to civil rights legislation that even today, the most ardent critic of "protestors," will exempt from criticism recognizing that perhaps "in that case," the need to freedom of assembly was necessary. It's amazing how a bit of time and perspective makes the act of "protest," acceptable at a time when protests are growing not only here in the U.S. but world wide against a variety of issues that the public perceives as either flat out wrong or ignored by those that govern.
May the children of our world have the tenacity of a Dorothy Counts-Scoggins to go do good and be counted when a wrong, even one with the power of law behind it, needs to be made right.
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