Column: Concept of Black History Month stirs mixed emotions

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 6, 2006

Scott Schmeltzer, Tribune Publisher

February is Black History Month. I find this to be good and bad and let me explain why. On one hand it is good because we get to shine a light on all the great people whot have helped our society in ways that many of us do not even realize.

People like Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, Jesse Owens, Martin Luther King Jr. and Harriet Tubman. These historic figures stand out and get to glow in a month filled with marches and honors for Blacks who helped pave the way for truth and equality.

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On the other hand, I find it kind of sad that we are not yet equal enough to just have them highlighted as a part of our history and revered in every month the way that George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and other leaders are on a day-to-day basis.

I feel split because we still do not seem to embrace the change or the day-to-day dilemma that is facing us as citizens. We still base our thoughts as a society on color and we judge people based on color.

I think what we need to do is to base our thoughts, prejudices and our mores on what we know of the person, not the race or color. If we judged everyone based on color, then as a white Caucasian male you would base your thoughts about me on Ken Lay (former Enron chief) or Ted Bundy (convicted killer). Is that fair? Of course not, but how many times have you done just that with a member of a different color or race?

I personally base my prejudices on if the person is an idiot or not. It is amazing that every color and race on this planet has an idiot who will ruin the reputation of not only its color and race, but gender as well.

Idiots have a way of ruining the good that people have done by getting individuals to judge what the idiot does as a basis of either color or race.

In the movie &8220;A Time to Kill,&8221; actor Mathew McConaughey has a great speech that he uses while talking to a jury about a small colored child’s beating. He first asks the jury to close their eyes, and then he proceeds to tell the story about the young child and the gruesome beating that this child went through at the hands of two local loathsome men. The sadness of this story resonates throughout the courtroom and you can’t do anything but feel sadness and remorse for this young soul. Mathew’s character has the jury continue to keep their eyes closed as he starts to finish this tragic tale of this angels beating, when all of a sudden he states, &8220;Now imagine the girl is white.&8221; The jury suddenly opens there teary eyes and a startled look comes across their faces as reality hits home.

This young girl is no different because she is black and she should not be treated as such. Now I sure know that that is a Hollywood motion picture based on a book by John Grisham and that movies are supposed to have dramatic endings, but what a great line about closing your eyes and imagining.

I am here to ask you to close your eyes when you make a decision based on color.

Close your eyes, so we can open them together.

Close your eyes, so that you can open them to the world.

Close your eyes, so we never have to open them again to the pain and the struggles of racism in our country.

Close your eyes and think.

Quite an eye opener, isn’t it?

Thanks for listening.

(Tribune Publisher Scott Schmeltzer’s column runs on Mondays.)