Discussing Race and Tolerance : Black History Month
February 4, 2013 Leave a comment
February is Black History month and each year as a family, we look for historical documentaries to watch and seek out biographies of people who have played important roles in our evolution as a country. When I was young, information was limited and we didn’t learn much about it in school. I want to be sure we honor those who went before us because it is OUR history.
A few years back, instead of viewing the Super Bowl, we watched the movie “Boycott,” which is about the events which occurred in Montgomery Alabama after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in the “Whites Only” section of the bus. Black Americans pulled together to demonstrate their economic power by refusing to use public transportation. The program is good and sends a compelling message about the impact peace and non-violence can have.
In the movie, there is a scene where the fire department sits across the street and watches the home of an African-American man burn to the ground. My son, who was eight years old, looked at me with puzzled eyes. He asked why the firemen were not helping put out the flames. I explained what life for black and white people in America was like during that time. Then, he turned to me and asked;
“Mom, am I black?”
WOW. Just WOW. I froze for a moment, a bit surprised because we talked about race and identity in the past and I thought he got it. But this time it became very real for him in a new way. It isn’t the last discussion we will have around this issue and each one that occurs create teachable moments for everyone involved in the conversation.
My response to him was, “Yes, you are African-American and you should be proud of that but more importantly proud of who you are.”
Our talk extended into a loving conversation about learning from injustice and giving ourselves permission to make different choices. We honor our history when we understand we have freedom now and we can’t take that for granted. Making the right decisions helps us be better people.
As leaders, remembering the cultural dynamics that have been woven into our history brings richness to who we are. When we celebrate black history month, we acknowledge a culture that for generations has been discounted and dismissed. We heal and learn the narrative about how far we have come and that there is more work to do.
Conversations about race and tolerance aren’t easy for everyone, and unfortunately, some people don’t care to engage in dialogue about the issue. Can you imagine how ongoing talk about it could build more bridges for understanding and make our world even better? I can and as human beings, we all have opportunities to learn and grow. I think that is exciting.
I enjoy hearing your thoughts and perspectives. Please, feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below.
Resource Article: 'Rubbing Off" Allison Briscoe-Smith explains how kids learn about race and how their parents can foster tolerance.’ Allison Briscoe-Smith, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor at Pacific Graduate School of Psychology. Resource Websites: Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center MAVIN: The Mixed Heritage Experience