Celebrate Morgan Freeman history month

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

If you have an obsessive compulsive disorder, the object of therapy is usually to figure out a way to stop obsessing about whatever it is you’re obsessing about.

Morgan Freeman made this point during a brilliant interview with the late Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes, many years ago. He was asked by Wallce, “How are we going to get rid of racism . . .” to which Freeman immediately responded by saying,  “stop talking about it.”

The thing Wallace was talking about – the thing many on the Left obsess about – is Black History Month, which keeps racism alive by obsessing about race.

Freeman tried to explain it to Wallace. “I’m going to stop calling you a white man. And I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace; you know me as Morgan Freeman.” In other words, as individual human beings, to be judged according to the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, as another man once suggested as the basis for people regarding one another.

Instead, history becomes a question of color rather than individuals and events. It fragments history by focusing on the color of it rather than the substance of it. When race is a part of history, that ought to be talked about. But slavery – as a for-instance – was not just about race. It was – fundamentally – about questions far more transcendent, such as the regarding of human beings as property. Which – historically – was only recently (and incidentally) about race. Humans – of all races – have enslaved one another througout history. After Caesar defeated the Gauls at the battle of Alesia, he enslaved them all. All of whom were of the same race – white Europeans – as Caesar.

The Moors enslaved whites and Native Americans routinely enslaved one another. Just as blacks did the same – to other blacks – whom they handed over to white slave traders.

The common denominator was economics.

Slaves were seen as valuable. Race – and religion – may have sometimes entered into it. But the reason for enslaving people was not fundamentally about their race anymore than the scientific or other accomplishments of a man who happens to be black is about his being black.

A man like Chappie James, for instance – who was a good friend of legendary “triple ace” Robin Olds. These two men flew together in combat during the Vietnam War, with James eventually becoming commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing and, eventually, a four star general. One man (Olds) happened to be white. The other (James) happened to be black. Neither had a thing to do with their ability to fly a fighter aircraft in combat – or to become close friends on account of their shared humanity and mutual respect.

That is history. American history.

Making it about race marginalizes it. James becomes something less than a brilliant pilot and military leader. He becomes a widget – a fungible one of many – who isn’t defined by who he was and what he did but rather by his color.

As Freeman explained – patiently – to Wallace in the 60 Minutes interview, “Black history is American history.” It is not something to be “relegated to a month” out of each year. It is part of the totality of our history, which we all have in common.

“Which month is white history month?” Freeman asked Wallace – who squirmed in his seat before evasively replying that he’s Jewish, an interesting Freudian slip that revealed Wallace apparently thought of himself in racial-groupthink terms rather than human-individual terms – and also that he apparently thought people who are of the Jewish faith are a race. One wonders what Wallace might have said about the large number of Ethiopians who happen to be black as well as Jewish.

Wallace eventually-awkwardly answered that there isn’t a Jewish History Month and – in response to a follow-up by Freeman asking him whether he wants one, said he doesn’t.

“I don’t either,” says Freeman – an accomplished actor whose achievements as an actor and a man have nothing to do with his being a black man. Just as Wallace’s achievements as a famous journalist had nothing to do with his being Jewish.

Wallace would surely have been offended had Freeman suggested his achievements be viewed through the one-dimensional prism of his religious faith. But Wallace – like many whites on the Left – was too embarrassingly purblind to see how marginalizing his unctions about Black History Month – which became a nationally recognized race-obsession under the auspices of another purblind white man, Gerald Ford, came across to a man like Freeman.

To any self-respecting man. Color be damned. Obsessing about race makes it hard – if not impossible – to stop obsessing about race.

So maybe let’s stop obsessing about it?

And look if you like Black History Month, you should know it was invented by a white guy named President Gerald Ford who kindly says you’re welcome.


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A.J. Rice
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