When I was growing up in East Tennessee in the 1940s and 1950s, we celebrated Negro History Week. In those days, the segregated public school curriculum didn’t include a study of the African slaves and the contributions they and their descendants made in the building of the United States. So, we had good reason to study the lives of great Negroes and the contributions they made to the nation.
However, we actually studied Negro history the entire year, reciting poetry and performing plays and reading stories. The difference was, during negro history week, each student had to select one Negro hero or heroine and write a paper on him or her.
To put it simply, in those days, the White historians and the White school officials not only didnt’’t see us but did not consider us to be a part of the American heritage, just as today those folks talked about preserving their southern heritage conveniently leave out the Black faces. In their concept of that heritage, slavery never occurred and Jim Crow was the name of some Native American.
Black History month can and should be used to correct this blind spot in the minds of those trying to preserve their southern heritage. The problem, of course, is they don’t read the books or watch the TV programs during Black History month. Nevertheless, we must keep trying to educate them.
I partially agree with Morgan Freeman that Black history is a part of American history.
You know things have changed slightly when we Black folks keep track of the first African American to something in various fields. I say slightly because the fact that we still track African American firsts is an indication we still have a ways to go for true progress.
In my Saturday Knoxville News Sentinel newspaper, is a story about the hiring of Black head coaches at division 1 universities. According to the article, there are now eight, yes Virginia, 8 Black head coaches at the following schools: Kansas, Virginia, East Carolina, Kentucky, Memphis, Miami, Louisville, and Houston. Of course, some of these men will fail and some will succeed. My fear is, as always, that the schools where the coach may fail will never hire another Black, judging all Black coaches based on the failure of the one they hired. Still it is progress.
I have wondered often, why is it the major universities hired Black head basketball coaches with no problem but claimed, at least some did, that the fans and alumni wouldn’t accept a Black head football coach?
Well, it’s Black History Month once more, and we Black folks have got a lot to be upset bout. For one thing, is Black History Month still relevant? And another thing, why are all the folks adopting Black Haitian children White?
But what’s bothering me right now is some Black folks all over the census bureau for including the word “Negro” as a descriptive category on the census form. It seems they think the word is demeaning, which puts it on a level with the word that is truly demeaning. Yes, I’m talking bout “nigger.”
When I was growing up in the 1940s and 1950s, in my family, we dared not use the word “black” to describe anybody, especially a light-skin person. You see, my family includes both dark and light-skin folks. If my grandmother heard me or one of my cousins call somebody “black,” bam, right up side the head she’d go with anything she had in her strong right hand. It was a long time in the 1960a before I could use “Black” to describe African Americans.
My aunt, my mother’s younger sister, didn’t like the word “Negro” because she said when White folks tried to say it, it sounded like “niggra,” which sounded like that other word. She preferred “colored,” the word polite White folks used.
For most of us, “Negro” was dignified and demanded respect. Notice that it is capitalized. I, too, prefer “African American” or “Black American” these days, but I do not consider “Negro” demeaning given the reason it was used in the past.
I’ve been reading in various magazine articles claiming we old folks (I don’t like being called a senior citizen) are a current and future burden on the economy, health care, and just about anything else some young pundit can think of. We are sometimes pawns in the political game. During the debates on health care, one side tried to scare the bejesus out of us with the claim that the bill would set up “death panels.”
Now maybe some of you young bloods resent me taking up space and not being productive as I was in my younger years. Too bad.
When they were young, My mother and aunts supported my grandmothers, and I and my cousins supported our parents through taxes that paid for Social Security and Medicare. Now my kids support me and other old folks through paying taxes.
One of the duties of government is to see that we old heads are cared for in our declining years. Most of us live on pensions that sometimes are not enough to pay all of our bills, especially if we get sick.
I did my part during my productive years, and now that I’m not as productive, I don’t expect to go into the woods and lie down and provide food for the animals.
What I do expect of my government, which taxes my pension, so you see, I still pay taxes, is to help me when I can no longer help myself.
You young bloods must accept the fact that you, too, will be old one day and I wonder if you will see yourselves as a burden on society.