The well-being of black history told in positive terms

Published 6:46 pm Friday, February 28, 2020

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By Dr. William Scott

During Black History Month we folks on the margin engage in telling and re-telling the history of our connection to this country and the blight of our citizenry. The stories we talk about, write about, give lectures about, are not always pretty story since we are forever comparing our successes against the “supervillains” who want to destroy us. In the telling of our history — particularly geared to our children and our young adults — we always put emphasis on how we have accomplished great things in the face of all the supervillains who seek our demise.

But that approach does great harm to the psychological well-being of our children and our young adults. It allows them to forever blame the “perceived supervillains” for their faults, their unwillingness to engaged in self accomplishments, self-achievements, self-worth. And the tragic result is that our children and our young adults give up, stop trying and continue the “blame game.”

Let’s stop the negative telling of our history and start telling it differently — the positive side of our accomplishments of “we folks on the margin.”

Throughout the month of February, television and the social media platforms have revisited “Roots,” “Sounder,” the Jim Crow era, the voter rights questions, the state’s gerrymandering practices and a bunch of other programs geared toward black history themes. The programs were all the same — reflecting the supervillains and the successes of the oppressed.

One program that was on TV reflected the views of this article, at least to me, was about the death of Katherine Johnson on Feb. 24, 2020. She was born in 1918 and died 101 years later. This black lady was the mathematician whose calculations of orbital mechanics made it possible for man to walk on the moon. She, along with Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, were the main characters in the book and movie called “Hidden Figures.”

In an interview about her life at National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and her contributions to the space program, she very simply said, “It was easy for me and I enjoyed it.” She never mentioned the difficulty of her past life or how she managed to end up working for NASA. That’s how it ought to be when we talk about black history. How our natural talents and abilities, coupled with our drive toward excellence, ought to be expressed. The obstacles in the way should never be addressed except to clarify a deficiency of self. Even the deficiency should be expressed in positive terms as Katherine Johnson did, by saying, “It was easy for me and I enjoyed it.”

So, let’s continue to sing, “…. Lift every voice and sing ’til earth and heaven ring/Ring with the harmonies of liberty … .”

DR. WILLIAM SCOTT is a guest columnist for The Tidewater News. He can be reached at