Diversity in Black History Month
Every February at my school we would celebrate Black History Month with assemblies and presentations about Black History. At first, the presentations consisted mostly of documentaries featuring news footage of the struggle for civil rights. Every year we’d see white police beating black people in Selma or Montgomery or elsewhere. And every year our black students would come out of the assemblies visibly and understandably angered by the injustices they had seen.
I went to our principal and asked for some diversity in the presentations. I pointed out that just showing beatings and police dogs and firehoses used on demonstrators didn’t tell the whole picture. It gave the impression that all white people hated all black people which just wasn’t and isn’t true. If it were, we’d still be legally segregated or worse.
My students didn’t need to be convinced that racial prejudice is real – they’d seen it first hand all around them. What they needed was inspiration not more hatred. What they needed was a glimpse of those heroes, white and black, who worked to break down racial barriers. That included Lyndon Johnson as well as Thurgood Marshall, Branch Rickey as well as Jackie Robinson, and Eleanor Roosevelt as well as the Tuskegee Airmen. This was not to imply that the struggle for equal treatment had or has been won. It was intended to show what worked. It was intended to show that the struggle goes on and that only through cooperation of all parties could the forces of prejudice be overcome. And a diverse program was also intended to teach rational judgement because sometimes it isn’t only about race.
Don’t Boycott the Oscars
As of this writing (January/February 2016) there has been a lot of discussion of the lack of diversity in the Academy Awards and what to do about it. There has even been a strident call to boycott the Oscars. I think a boycott is not the answer. Those who would boycott seem to be trying to make this a racial or moral issue when it is more of a business issue and popularity contest.
It’s not about morality.
Why aren’t those concerned with diversity complaining about the lack of diversity in the NBA? Why are there no Cubans on the Miami Heat? Why are there no Irish on the Boston Celtics? Boston Celtics – there’s a misnomer if ever there was one. Fielding a predominately black team in ‘Bean Town’ and calling it the Boston Celtics makes as much sense as fielding a predominately white team in ‘The Big Apple’ and calling it the New York Negros!