By Clint Parker
Editor’s note: This was written for the Weaverville Tribune for publication in the February 2018.
I hope I don’t get in trouble over this commentary, but here goes. Last week I received a press release from Lenoir-Rhyne University. Now, this isn’t a release I’d run because it’s not in our newspaper’s coverage area, but the subject matter of the release made me think and remember a video clip I saw of a movie star and his comments.
The release was entitled “Celebrate African-American Entrepreneurship with the Altitude Accelerators at Black History Month Event.” The release went on to say “The Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Asheville and Buncombe County will celebrate Black History Month by featuring the past and future of African-American entrepreneurship in Asheville.”
So I started thinking, ‘How come we consign Black History to one month?’ It really sounds kind of racist. I mean should we have White History month? I’m sure that really sounds racist to a lot of people as it should, but then why isn’t the same true for Black History month.
It also recalled to my memory a 60 Minutes News program interview, some years ago, when Morgan Freeman, the actor, was asked, “Black History month you find…?” Freeman finished the question by saying, “Ridiculous.” For those who don’t know Freeman is black himself and that’s the only reason I mention it here.
The reporter, Mike Wallace, then went on to ask, “Why?” To which Freeman replied, “You’re going to relegate my history to a month?” Which made Wallace comment, “Oh, come on.” To which Freeman asked, “What do you do with yours, which month is White History month?” Wallace thought he had a good response to the question when he said, after stammering around, “I’m Jewish.”
Freeman, not deterred, then asked, “Ok, which month is Jewish History month?” Wallace responded, “There isn’t one.” “Oh, oh why not?” asked Freeman. “Do you want one?” “No, no I don’t…” Wallace said quickly. “I don’t either. I don’t want a black history month. Black history is American history.” added Freeman and he’s right.
Then Wallace asked Freeman what I can only characterize as one of the lamest questions that might be able to be asked at this juncture in the interview, “How are we going to get rid of racism?” As if naming a month Black History was somehow going to solve the racism problem in America and make it all better. Sounds more like a feel-good Band-Aid to me.
Morgan Freeman’s answer was priceless as he answered, “Stop talking about it. I’m going to stop calling you a white man and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace and you know me as Morgan Freeman.”
Well now, isn’t that what Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted? “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” That’s King’s words as to what an end of racism would look like.
How can we ever do that if we don’t hang up the labels? If we don’t get past the Black History Month and Black Lives Matter and the White Power movements and all the breaking up into groups on the basis of the color of our skin. People should stop expecting others to act a certain way based on their skin color because that is racist. It’s racist to expect people to vote a certain way based on their skin color. It’s racist to expect people to commit a crime based on their skin color.
Racism is defined as “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.” So if we stop talking about race to describe history, people and other things, it might help us to get over all the cry of racism and then every month will be Black History month or Jewish History month, or White History month because it will be American History Month. And that’s what we are, no matter our skin color, political or religious affiliations – American. That’s my dream.