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Black History Month – Differences In People

Posted by on Feb 7, 2011

Wow, it’s Black History Month and I waited an entire week before mentioning it. Actually, it’s not all that surprising for this blog when I think about it. In the just over 3 years that I’ve had this blog, the only time I ever mentioned a black person by name on this blog during February was the first year of this blog when I talked about Bobo Brazil, the first black wrestler inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Bobo Brazil & Muhammad Ali

The funny thing is that I’m old enough to remember when black people were called “Negroes”, and that was the nice word. I’m obviously old enough to remember when we were first “black and proud.” I’m not quite old enough to remember when Muslims like my hero Muhammad Ali used to talk about the “so-called Negroes”, but in retrospect that was an inkling that things were really about to change.

Or were they? Sure, the names have changed. These days we’re called African American, a term I rarely use because, well, I grew up “black and proud”, and African American just has way too many syllables to be effective.

I remember when I was younger this month meant a heck of a lot to me. As a kid, I wasn’t the typical reader. One of the first books I bought for myself was a small book that gave a brief biography of Frederick Douglass. Of course that wasn’t enough for me, so over the next couple of years I would go to the library and request other books on him. I lived in Limestone, ME at the time, but I was on Loring Air Force Base, so they’d take requests and order the books to be sent up there.

It’s hard to put it in your mind in this day and age, but this man taught himself how to read and write, as a slave, when it was against the law. Then he ran away, came up north, went to England, wrote an autobiography, came back, had a lot of people come together to buy his freedom, settled in Rochester, wrote a couple of newspapers and more books, worked with President Lincoln, then later married a white woman and alienated everyone; that was in 1884. He lost the support of his family, she lost the support of hers, even though her family were staunch abolitionists. But in 1888 he actually got a vote to be his party’s representative for president of the United States at the… Republican National Convention. Yeah, it was different back then, the party of Lincoln and all.

Anyway, I was a major fan all through elementary school, high school, and college. I was a major advocate for a number of years. And every year through my early and late adulthood I thought it was still important enough to try to get the word out. After all, there’s a lot of stuff we wouldn’t have now if it weren’t for black people.

Then in 2005 I wrote this post on my other blog, Mitch’s Blog, which is my business blog, called Black History Month – Why Don’t People Care More. And I realized that the month really doesn’t carry any meaning anymore. There are no protests for equal rights anymore. There’s a black president, and lots of black people on TV and in sports and entertainment. People can stay in the same hotels now. There’s interracial marriage without mass protests. Goodness, in some communities people are actually trying to segregate schools now to save money (idiot move, North Carolina).

In other words, the differences are still there, but people just don’t really care anymore. I realized that, in some way, I can only state my piece and go with my opinion on things, but it’s probably an old opinion. I’m asked by younger people “Why can’t you just be yourself totally in public and forget what other people might say.” I say because I remember being the “only” enough times when I was younger and knew that I had to “represent”. I then say because even today I’m often the “only”, and I still have to represent. It’s important enough to me, if not them; that’s a shame. But it proves my point; if young black people don’t care, then I’m not going to force it upon them, nor upon anyone else. I’ll state my piece when I’m in the mood, and then I’ll move on.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to shake things up from time to time. It also doesn’t mean I don’t still want some things to occur. So, in that vein, I present the video below. Elon James White is funny and on the ball and calls it straight. And for once he put out an entire video without saying any bad words, although, well, you just can’t account for the shirt. So, Happy Black History Month; this is all I’ve got for now:

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I appreciate this post. I am not used to saying African-American, because I was brought during the time when we used black. I’m not offended if someone refers to me as black. But I know some are. I just like to be referred to as an American. 🙂

There is a book that I really liked and still do, “Up From Slaver.” by Booker T. Washington. One of my favorites.

Enjoyed the video. Elon is funny!

Evelyn Parham

February 7th, 2011 | 10:55 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Evelyn, I read that at 12 and once afterwards. It’s strange because the first time I read it I was enthralled, and the second time I read it I was having the battle between whether he was an icon or an Uncle… well, you know what I mean. Sometimes that’s the difference between being wide eyed and being somewhat radicalized by the people around you. In the end I’ve come to the conclusion that he was a remarkable man of his time, like Stepin Fetchit was when one steps back to realize the breadth of what was done rather than just what was done.

Thanks for this; that term has just never caught my fancy either, and I guess it means I have to then appreciate why my elders had problems getting rid of “negro”.

February 7th, 2011 | 3:42 PM

OMG Mitch!

I laughed so hard at the video!!! Never seen this dude before but he spoke a truth that had me ROTFL! Unless you’ve lived someone else’s experience, you have no clue as to what they’re going through. And I do believe white America’s perspective today is that we HAVE overcome but I’m still waiting for my three acres and a mule.

February 7th, 2011 | 6:42 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Bev, all one has to do is look at the vociferous reaction whenever the conversation comes up talking about reparations to know how people really feel. Course I’ve never even believed it would get a serious look and, trust me, I know there’s a lot of people I know aren’t qualified to know how to handle it, but it’s been an ugly conversation in the past. Yeah, he’s great; you should check out some of his other videos. He’s keeping it real.

February 7th, 2011 | 8:03 PM
Fergus Gibson:

Hi, Bev. It seems like a lot of people want to think the work is done and there is not oppression of blacks, of women, of homosexuals, etc. Sure, all of these groups have more rights now than 50 years ago. But I hear — and I’m reminding myself to listen rather than tell you, a black woman, or Mitch about the experience of blacks and women — often of barriers and hate.

For what it’s worth I come from Canada, and in my small town on a big island, you almost never see a black person. I know very little about the experience of black Americans, and I’m interesting in learning more. That’s how I ended up stumbling into Mitch on Twitter. I have grown up with the media explaining the black experience to me, which is probably not wholly wrong or wholly right. Not everyone in the media has experienced life as a black person or a woman either.

Hopefully I don’t sound like a complete moron.

One thing I would say to anyone reading this as a white person who doesn’t hate black people: if I call you black or I call you African-American, please just let me know what you prefer. I’m never saying either to hurt or put someone down. I don’t have an agenda when I use one of those two terms. It’s like you say, Bev, that different people have a different association with those words.

One thing I believe is learning about people who come from a different background or perspective. It makes me a better person. If I can give something back in that process, even just to say thank you, I will. Thank you, Mitch, for sharing your thoughts in this article and for inviting me to read this.

February 11th, 2011 | 5:22 PM
Althea Garner:

Thanks for the mention, Mitch ~ yes, I am African American and fair skinned (I hated being called ‘white’ since I spent enough time in the sun trying NOT to be white! You, on the other hand are not black, but brown! Geez… what’s with the color thing? Who cares?

Personally, I love the differences between ALL of us, because it makes life so very interesting. We all have different heritages and customs, and we can learn so much from each other. To be honest, one really has to travel away from one’s home to really APPRECIATE the differences between God’s nations – many of our differences stem from climate (the reason that Jewish people were prohibited from eating pork, was because they didn’t have refrigeration at that time and pork spoils very quickly, as an example.)

Each nation should be proud of their heritage and others MUST respect them for who and what they are – PERIOD! I was HORRIFIED today to see one of my colleagues wrinkle her nose as she explained that the buyer was ‘MEXican’ (with the emphasis on the first three characters). I stood there asking myself what ever happened to Fair Housing laws?????

Honestly, Mitch, you might be green and from Mars for all I care – there is much to learn from you and much to respect about YOU, the PERSON.

You know that I have always loved your Black History Month stories and I have always been sad when February came to an end because I felt cheated that the stories had ended for another year! I hope you never stop relating Black History stories – they are so valuable to all of us.

BTW. I once asked a teenager (at Starbucks) why she wasn’t at school. She answered, ‘Oh…. it’s some dudes birthday’. It was Martin Luther King Day!

Mitch, DON’T EVER GIVE UP YOUR BLACK HISTORY MONTH PROMOTION! There are still MANY out there who NEED educating!

To diversity!

February 7th, 2011 | 8:51 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

I remember that, Althea, and I have to admit that’s one of the reasons I actually stopped doing it. That entire month you were the only one who enjoyed it. Everyone else dropped off the face of the earth; no one else commented that entire time, and it was, well, depressing to a degree. I remember when it really was a big deal; nowadays, even most black people don’t care. I figure there are other ways to continue fighting the battle.

February 7th, 2011 | 11:46 PM

And yet you shared something new with me. I’ll let you decide exactly how much that balances against the time and thought I know you put into your blog post. Also even if people don’t comment, doesn’t mean they aren’t reading. After all, there may be awkwardness about opening up for some.

For me, I feel like a dunce when I talk about some of this because while I’m exposed to information and perspectives through the media, I’ve only spoken to a few black people in my life. Refer to my earlier comment if that is controversial: I come from a place so white it’s as though we’re ants on a wedding dress.

I remember the ONE Asian kid in my school of 800 students.

Yes, I missed out, and that’s probably why I engage so quickly with anyone who wants to share. Food, language, culture, religion, anything that is “foreign” which includes the black American experience that comes through my reading, my TV set, etc., but is divorced from real people such as those here on this blog talking about their real life experience.

February 11th, 2011 | 5:27 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Fergus, I’m glad to have you stop by, and it’s great that this post is the first one you comment on.

When I lived in Maine, while I was on the base life was fairly normal for me. When we got about 30 miles or more away from the base, suddenly it was a totally different world, and I know I ended up in places where I was the first black person most of these people had ever seen. Everyone was nice, yet I always worried both that someone would try to harm me and I’d never see it coming, while also realizing that I had to set the positive standard because they might never meet another black person. That’s the strange thing about this country; some people could go their entire lives without ever meeting a person of color, though these days it would be hard not to see one on TV like in the past.

Of course, I also have a different experience, one where I went to an all black school for one year, where the only “different” person was a Mexican kid, and everyone liked him. That was nice to see; of course, for the most part they didn’t like me, but that’s a story for another day. lol

February 11th, 2011 | 7:52 PM

Unfortunately there are still countries in the world where there is still separation between people and different races. I think it is wrong to divide and classify people in any way.

February 8th, 2011 | 7:25 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Carl, I’m not so sure it’s wrong; at least in this world. Right now one has to do it, otherwise we never know who’s being oppressed. If we ever get to a place where they’re total fairness, then I’d agree with you.

February 8th, 2011 | 10:09 AM

Hi, Carl. Thanks for sharing. I think I get Mitch’s take on it, and I also think you may have commented in the context of the ideal world we should all work towards. I think we would agree that it’s certainly wrong to divide people in order to be unfair or unkind to them. I also believe I understand why black people don’t want to be told race is invisible.

Stephen Colbert, a white guy, gets that. He satirizes the “colour blind” perspective regularly. He claims he is doesn’t see colour, and then goes to take to a place of total absurdity by claiming he can’t tell when people are black. Let’s face it, colour doesn’t tell me who you are, but it has contributed to the experience that has made you who you are; it’s part of your identity; and pretending we’re anywhere near a world where it’s irrelevant is refusing to engage with reality.

I know Mitch is black. I can see that. He’s also a little older and comes from a different locale. I bet he’s lived a different live than I have. OK, he’s different in a number of ways. Not better or worse for his race, age, place of birth or residence. Just different. I like that he’s not exactly like me. I don’t find it at all intimidating, threatening or off-putting. I love meeting new people because I grow through the exchange. I’m relating to what he communicates to form some understanding of who he is. And I like it. He’s taken from his time to share and exchange with me, just as he is doing on this blog. That’s a gift.

You know what bugs me about the haters out there? Well, a lot of things, but one thing comes to mind based on my experiences right now. I’m meeting a lot of white men and women who grew up where I grew up. Do you know how many seem just like me? None. How do people get it into their minds that black people “are like _____”? Sure, I find things in common with the white people who grew up where I did. I’m also finding things in common with Mitch. We’re human beings, of course we have things in common and differences.

Bah, could go on forever and probably would.

Peace and love. Let’s use dialogue to make this world better, and let’s never shy away from interaction with someone just because they look, sound, or act different somehow. I’m not going to go up to every black person I see (however rarely) in my city like they are a curiosity for my amusement. That’s just a different sort of racism. But I’m never going to be any less enthusiastic about engaging a black person than I would be with anyone else. And I’ve learned not to pretend that they aren’t black.

February 11th, 2011 | 5:39 PM
Ali Mujtaba:

The youtube video was awesome! We’ve done really great progress since the ’60 on the racism issue. But of course there will always be racist people out there…

February 9th, 2011 | 5:17 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Ali, we have and we haven’t. Look at how people in this country treat people of Middle Eastern descent. Black people, well, we’re just kind of ignored, not the hated group we were, but some of the things I see written or hear said are just horrible and ignorant.

February 9th, 2011 | 10:12 PM

Great point, Mitch. I remember when the attack occurred and people in Canada and the US started turning against and harming Muslims, Arabs (not necessarily the same thing), and Asian races they mistook for Arabs. It was sickening.

I think it comes down to the notion of in-group versus out-group relationships. Us and them. I’m a humanist.( I don’t think we further the human condition in division, though I understand there is likely an evolutionary component to this behaviour. We did develop the ability to be rational, though, and I hope more and more of us will use it to open ourselves to “them”.

February 11th, 2011 | 5:47 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Great stuff, Fergus. And I’m not going to lie; for the first few days after 9/11 I was angry, and I wanted to either hurt people or help people, but instead I was pretty much frozen to the TV. It took finally being able to break away from all the news, go watch a portion of a video (check out this link, go to #1:, and got my equilibrium back. I’m glad I had the time to work on coming to grips with things; I could have only seen trouble coming had I not stayed in the house.

February 11th, 2011 | 8:04 PM

I come, originally, from London, England, which is a very cosmopolitan city. People of all different nationalities, races, skin colours, religions, etc, etc. So there are very few (if any) of those I’ve not encountered. That said, of the Americans I’ve met over the years, only two or three have been black. And since having internet access I’ve ‘met’ in the cyberspace context of meeting, a lot of black Americans. And d’you know what, Mitch? Black Americans are very different from Black Brits.

I’ve also met a lot of Black Africans (though, as I’ve said before, Africa is a huge place, and each country there has its own identity) and again – very different from both Black Americans and Black Brits.

So my conclusions are this: we’re all different. We’re all ourselves. If our skin colour means anything to us, it’ll be the result of our experiences (and our experiences as a ‘group’).

March 4th, 2011 | 8:20 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Interesting interpretation, Val, and overall I’d have to agree with you in our differences. I find that I often can call a group fairly well, and yet I’m never going to get it totally correct and I think I like that. In regard to the post, I just feel like a past is leaving way before its time, and I can only hope some remember the legacy of what’s come before them and don’t give up until they’ve achieved what those early leaders were striving for.

March 5th, 2011 | 3:16 PM