By Mark A. Taylor
Hollywood star Morgan Freeman is against the idea of Black History Month. Interviewed on CBS TV’s 60 Minutes, the African American Academy Award winner said, “We don’t have White History Month or Jewish History Month.” Why not include the role of black Americans whenever American history is studied?
But Denzil Holness, minister with Central Christian Church in Atlanta, does not agree. In his four page quarterly paper, A Voice in the Wilderness*, he wrote,
Black History Month (February), a time set aside to tell the story of African Americans and to highlight their achievements, presents our periodicals with a golden opportunity for Christian witness. . . . Since we are included in the “family album,” our periodicals now have a providential opportunity to introduce us, the black members of the Restoration family, to their white sisters and brothers, thus bridging the gulf of ignorance between us (Fall 2005).
His challenge, however, was not the catalyst for this Black History Month edition of Christian Standard. We planned this issue after Bob Hull submitted the sensitive essay that is this week’s lead article. Brother Holness believes most white Americans have been raised in a context that makes us see the status quo as OK. When I interviewed him for this column, he spoke of “systemic racism” in our midst. This is the racism Dr. Hull confesses.
Some readers of Christian Stan dard will not understand or accept some of Holness’s points of view. He has called on the North American Christian Convention, for example, to issue a statement admitting the racism in our history and asking for forgiveness and reconciliation. He told me he doesn’t think we have “faced up to the issue of institutional racism” in our movement. “The average institution among us was founded by and for whites,” he said. “In such an institution the nonwhite person feels he is an alien.”
Nevertheless, any of us must wince to hear him say, “I am a Jamaican. But when I came from Jamaica to Minnesota Bible College in 1963, for the first time I was forced to think of myself as a black person. I had thought of myself only as Denzil Holness. But soon black became my primary identity.”
Bob Hull has set a good example for any of us who wonders how to realize and remove our own unwitting racism. The first step is self examination. The second is confession.
Perhaps a third is to affirm what Denzil Holness said in our conversation: “We need each other.” We need to talk with each other. We need to understand each other’s perspective on history and the current situation. And we need to find ways to express the unity the Lord already created when he included those from every race in the one body of Christ.
*Receive this publication, “dedicated to the ministry of racial reconciliation,” at no charge by writing Holness at 1916 Dodson Drive, S.W., Atlanta, GA 30311.