My Turn, Evelyn Uddin-Khan: Why only Black history?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 5, 2023

Some celebrations baffle me. Why celebrate “Black history?” Why not history?

Well, to celebrate Black History Month let’s put the spotlight on some historical people whose words are worth repeating.

Maya Angelou: “Won’t it be wonderful when Black History and Native American History and Jewish History and all of U.S. History is taught from one book? Just U.S. History.” Yes, ma’am, but that will happen when the U.S. grows up.

Morgan Freeman: “I don’t want a Black History Month. Black History is American History.” Mr. Freeman, we are working on it. We need another 400 years. Please be patient.

Harry Belafonte: “When I was born, I was Colored. I soon became a Negro. Not long after that, I was Black. Most recently, I was African American. It seems we’re on a roll here. But I am still first and foremost in search of freedom.” Mr. Belafonte, the shades of gray are coming and freedom is a meaningless word.

Marcus Garvey: “A people without the knowledge of their past history is like a tree without roots.” Mr. Garvey, perhaps our history is too dark to teach, and our trees root-less.

Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”  Mr. Mandela, our lack of education empowers racism.

Desmond Tutu: “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” Bishop Tutu, perhaps God wanted us to be human together. The other “race” had other ideas.

Kofi Annan: “We may have different religion, different languages, and different colored skin, but we all belong to the human race.” Mr. Annan, one race under God with liberty and justice for all is the dream of every minority in America.

Richard Wright: In the mid-1940s, the great French Existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre wrote one of the best exposes on Anti-Semitism in France. He used Richard Wright’s words to make his point. Wright said: “There is no Negro problem in the United States, there is only a White problem.” Sartre’s conclusion was that “there is no Jewish problem in France, there is only an Anti-Semitic white middle class problem in France.” Sounds familiar? Great job gentlemen!

Thurgood Marshall: “Racism separates, but it never liberates. Hatred generates fear, and fear once given a foot hold binds, consumes, and imprisons. Nothing is gained from prejudice. No one benefits from racism.” Justice Marshall, we must look within ourselves, and some of us are not capable of such moral labors.

Langston Hughes: “I swear to the Lord I still can’t see why democracy means everybody but me.” Mr. Hughes, you forgot to look at your skin.

Mohammed Ali: “I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.” Mr. Ali, you did it your way. Not many people can say that.

Malcolm X: “I am not a racist. I am against every form of racism and segregation, every form of discrimination. I believe in human beings and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color.” Mr. X, racism, segregation, discrimination is in the American genes. Ask the founding fathers.

James Baldwin: “There is never a time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.” Mr. Baldwin, we are trying, but it gets harder every day.

W.E.B. DuBois: “The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression.” Mr. DuBois, liberty is one of those words that sounds good, but it is black letters on white paper.

Jackie Robinson: “I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me … All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”  Mr. Robinson, respect comes with responsibility.

Zora Neale Hurston: “Sometimes I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me feel angry. It merely astonishes me. How can anyone deny themselves the pleasure of my company?” What a great line! Many of us would love your company!

To all Americans, let’s teach and celebrate American History.

Evelyn Uddin-khan moved to Salisbury in 2018 after living in the New York City area for most of her life. She taught in public schools and for a community college in the New York City area.