- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 5, 2006

When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his ‘proper place’ and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary. — Carter Godwin Woodson

So, here we are again, thanks to Carter Godwin Woodson, at the dawn of yet another Black History Month. Black thinkers, politicians and pundits are in high demand. TV networks exploit black programming. Schools and universities hold assemblies for their masses, and publishers large and small print special articles, sections and manuscripts and other commentary. Bookstores trot out — front and center — books by and about black folk. Even the U.S. Census Bureau gets in on the “celebration,” with special Black History Month editions of its Profile America series.

Then, poof; they all gear up for the next multicultural zone — Women’s History Month, Gay Pride Week, Hispanic History Month. Is America better off? Are our children getting the right message?

Did Morgan Freeman, America’s most prolific living character actor, get it right a few days before Christmas 2005, when he told Mike Wallace of “60 Minutes” that Black History Month is “ridiculous”? “You’re going to relegate my history to a month? I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.”

The actor asked also the interviewer if he wanted aWhiteHistory Month. When Mr. Wallace replied no, and told Mr. Freeman that he was Jewish, Mr. Freeman followed up with still another reasonable question, asking Mr. Wallace if he wanted a Jewish History Month. Mr. Wallace, of course, said no. Mr. Freeman also has touched on other well-worned topics, like the Confederate flag and such other billboards of American history. “That flag,” Mr. Freeman says, “has always represented, number one, treason and, number two, a separation of white people from Jews, [blacks] and homosexuals. And you can’t change that. You can’t tell me I’m never going to be able to look at that flag and think, ‘Ah. it’s my heritage, my, you know… Never.” Mr. Freeman is mistaken. The “Father of Black History Month” would say that the history of the Confederacy, in all its “Glory” and blood-stained atrocities, is as crucial a component of accurate American history as it is of black history. After all, the fate of Carter Godwin Woodson himself, a Reconstruction baby, spun from the downfall of the Confederacy.

Woodson, the son of former slaves, was a West Virginia coal miner who eventually earned a doctorate from Harvard. He “started,” among other things, Negro History Week (the second week of February) in 1926 to honor the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Woodson didn’t champion victimization, whether the discourse was among blacks, Jews or others involved in the Niagara Movement (the forerunner of the NAACP). He championed history. He studied it, wrote about it, taught it, preached it and lived it.

What started out as mere easily digestible facts about black Americans and how-to-teach booklets 80 years ago — for students, white and black — to focus on for one week, has become a monthlong… a monthlong… Well, a monthlong what?

Woodson believed in telling America’s story like it was, and his scholarly efforts are contrary to today’s very notion of multiculturalism — of on the one hand miseducating “Negroes” as if the entire race is to be pitied, and on the other teaching and conversing as if English is America’s second language.

It leads to the question, “Are we there yet?”

Nothing points closest to the answer no than what the mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, did last week, when he delivered his own response to President Bush’s State of the Union in Spanish. A Democrat, Mr. Villaraigosa is not merely the alcade (or mayor) of Spanish-speaking Los Angelans. And he does not live in los Estados Unidos. He is the mayor of all who live in Los Angeles and he lives in the United States.

This month, precisely 80 years since Carter Godwin Woodson championed the history of blacks as far more than mere footnotes of American history, we seemingly are re-segregating ourselves — with sub-cultural distinctions that define us as individuals instead of Americans. What, pray tell, does the future hold? Speeches in Hebrew? Gullah?

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