• We need to learn more about each other

    “This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware of them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.” Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

    I recently purchased a T-shirt for my son for Black History Month. It reads, “Dream Like Martin (Luther King, Jr.), Lead like Harriet (Tubman), Fight like Malcolm (X), Think like (Marcus) Garvey, Write like Maya (Angelou), Build like Madam C.J. (Walker), Speak Like Frederick (Douglass), Educate like W.E.B. (Du Bois), Believe like Thurgood (Marshall), Challenge like Rosa (Parks), Inspire like (Barack) Obama.

    There was some controversy about the shirt on FaceBook. After reading the list, a man had written, “Nah! I’d rather love like Jesus Christ,” to which I replied, “If you truly loved like Jesus Christ, you would have no problem with this list. There was no ultimatum. Sadly, you added that.”

    I wondered if there would have been any negativity if the list had read, Dream like Walt (Disney), Lead like George (Washington), Fight like Susan B. (Anthony), Think like Albert (Einstein), Write like Emily (Dickinson), Build like Henry (Ford), Speak like John F. (Kennedy), Educate like Helen (Keller), Believe like Orville and Wilbur (Wright), Challenge like John (Muir), Inspire like Abraham (Lincoln). My guess is “Nah!”

    We see lists like the second one all the time. And we know all the names on the second one. But I wonder how many people know all the names on the first list?

    “Build like Madam C.J.”… Well… build what?

    Madam C.J. Walker, born in 1867, created products for African-American hair and was one of the first American women to become a self-made millionaire. She was also known for her philanthropic endeavors including donating a large amount of money toward the construction of an Indianapolis YMCA in 1913.

    Take your passion and be successful — achieve the American Dream! That’s what “Build like Madam C.J.” says.

    How can we understand something if we don’t know much about it? We usually fear what we don’t understand.

    That is why Carter G. Woodson established Black History Week (which later became a whole month) as a space holder and reminder to learn about things and people one might not ordinarily investigate.

    Not long ago, I found out that a coworker had never heard of Harriet Tubman! Even after years of watching otherwise brilliant scholars utterly fail in the Black History category on Jeopardy, I was stunned. I had never fully grasped how easy it is to live in American and know so little about fellow Americans.

    We could all stand to learn more about each other and now, (sorry Friends of the Library, but) we have Google!

    I wish everyone an enlightening Black History Month.

    And I am grateful to everyone on both lists for having the courage to: Dream, Lead, Fight, Think, Write, Build, Speak, Educate, Believe, Challenge and Inspire.





      • Catherine Hurd

      • February 22, 2018 at 7:21 am
      • Reply

      Thanks for this essay. No matter how educated we are, there’s always so much more to know. It reminds us that we all need to be lifelong learners, and to remain open always to new ideas and new revelations.

        • Vatrena King

        • February 22, 2018 at 4:34 pm
        • Reply

        Yes! – And it’s also FUN to learn more about each other, I think. 🙂

      • Poppy

      • February 22, 2018 at 8:51 pm
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      Every word, thank you! We learn so much when we let down our guard and just listen.

        • Vatrena King

        • February 22, 2018 at 10:08 pm
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        Indeed, Poppy!

      • Maya Spier Stiles North

      • February 22, 2018 at 9:59 pm
      • Reply

      You’re right about both lists, although Henry Ford hated Jews virulently and made no effort to cover that up. I think a lot of white people would be surprised at all the things invented by African-American people. At The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington — my alma mater — they have a Day of Absence on the celebration of that vile Christopher Columbus. It’s a strange and saddening feeling to see no sign of people of color on the campus. It feels haunted — as it should. It’s time we all see each other’s human faces and delight in all the ways we vary — and the even more plentiful ways we don’t. <3

        • Vatrena King

        • February 22, 2018 at 10:20 pm
        • Reply

        Yes, all of them have flaws, of course! – Einstein was perfectly horrible to his first wife, the wife who had stuck by him when he was ‘nothing’! And It was only later in life that Malcolm X realized ALL humans could be brothers! But it’s SO great to learn about their contributions… and all their oh so human parts. :-), you know?! – I LOVE the last line of your comment, btw So beautifully put!! – Thanks so much for sharing. <3

    • Ms. King I enjoy reading your words and agree that we must indeed learn more about each other. The problems of today are complicated by a history that is incomplete or has been purposely altered specifically to “whiten” the past. The oldest of civilizations were African in nature as was the Upper and Lower Egyptian kingdoms. At the height of these civilizations most whites were still living in caves and migrating ever Northward, eventually reaching the Western continents. At this point, the white man did not even know the continent of Africa existed.
      These African civilizations were huge and more advanced in culture and science than anyplace on the face of the Earth. They were the greatest of civilizations yet history fails to give them the credit they are due. All of civilization at that time was African in nature. Of course this all changed with the invasions of Alexander who was nothing more than a thug that was credited with the spreading of civilization when in fact he was the destroyer of civilizations.
      From that point in time history became fiction. Black accomplishments became white, Pharaohs became white, and even civilization became white. From that point on people of color have been systematically robbed of their history thus any attempts to study the races of people of color are forever tented pale in nature. Little has changed with recorded history even until this very day.
      You mention Malcolm X, Dr. King, and Mays Angelou; all of who I have a great love for as does much of white America. These are people that have lived in the current era but it troubles me that all of the many, many individuals that were the greatest of their day have been wiped out by racism and prejudices. As a result, learning about each other becomes complicated for history is just flat out wrong when it comes to people of color.
      I don’t know the best solution and I would like to believe that the best approach to solving this problem is face to face relationships but even that is hard in today’s world as our neighborhoods, schools, and churches, are separated by barriers like freeways, canals, rivers, and walls. One race in another’s neighborhood is often harassed, pulled over, or worse. The fact is that whites know very little of AA culture and have never experienced racism and prejudice, they never will.
      In the end, I think the best thing anyone can do is to reach out with honesty and understanding as you have done in this column and I am doing in this comment. A little effort from everyone will go a long way and we will all learn from each other. It is up to all of us the change what needs to be changed and we can only pray that it won’t take too long.

        • Vatrena King

        • May 9, 2018 at 3:02 pm
        • Reply

        Donald, thank you for your powerful and beautiful comment! – Well put! – And you are SO right about the loss of the great history and ancient African civilizations.

        I am inspired by your comments to even look into this more myself! – My kids and I have some flash cards (found them on FB) Black History Flash Cards – highly recommended! They cover many people from Africa & the rest of the world along with the modern day greats! Thanks again for your comments.

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