Let me offer two must see movies about two American heroes – Bryan Stevenson and Dr. Vivian Thomas. Michael P. Jordan plays Stevenson in “Just Mercy” about defending Black death row prisoners who were convicted of crimes they did not commit. Stevenson faced unbelievable push back, but eventually was very successful in saving the lives of wrongfully convicted people.
Mos Def plays Thomas in the movie with Alan Rickman called “Something the Lord Made.” He was the Black surgeon who worked closely with Rickman to devise a medical procedure to save babies who died from lack of adequate blood flow, called Blue Babies. Being a Black man who had been a carpenter, he was not initially allowed to operate on White babies, even at Johns Hopkins. Yet, his carpentry skills gave him very adept hands who could perform this delicate surgery better than his co-founder could.
This movement to whitewash history to paint over the horrible and violent actions of people in power to those who do not have it is misguided and inane. We must learn from history whether it is the atrocities of slavery and the Jim Crow era, the Native American removal and genocide, the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, or the discrimination against other groups for perceived sins such as during the Lavendar Scare or Communist witch hunts. And, for those who want to pretend things did not happen, listen to Billie Holiday’s version of “Strange Fruit,” go to a civil rights museum close by such as in Greensboro or Washington, or Google Emmet Till or the Birmingham church bombing.
Yet, we must never forget America’s greatness is built on the input of a diverse melting pot of people. We have overcome actions and eras where those in power were none to kind to people who did not look like them (see Tulsa, Wilmington, NC where successful Black business people and elected officials were violently put down, eg). Yet, we did. But, we cannot back track on this progress kowtowing to the narrow-mindedness of pretending those things did not happen.
If we backtrack, not only is it the wrong thing to do, it is economically harmful to the whole country.