There are three sides to every story: yours, theirs, and the truth. Think about when two kids get in trouble and their parent asks each of them what happened. It’s usually two different stories and neither is the complete truth.
I’ve been in conversations with people recently: “why do we need Black History Month? It’s one History!” But it’s not one History; it’s generally one side of the history. When the textbooks are all written by one side (those in power), the movies from that era are directed and produced by one side (those in power), and the laws are created by one side (those in power).
Now, we are fortunate to celebrate Black History Month. There are books, articles, and movies that offer multiple perspectives and allow people to share their experience. It’s an opportunity for us to be empathetic to someone else’s experience and perspective.
While we may feel like that’s so far in the past, our parents and grandparents lived through it. And our peer’s parents and grandparents lived through it too, and maybe had a much different experience. Even today, you may be surprised to learn about experiences your peers have that don’t even cross your mind.
One thing I spent some extra time learning about recently was Voters’ rights.
For example, the 15th Amendment passed in 1870 which prohibits the federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
However, that amendment was poorly enforced and there were consequences for those that did vote (you can hear stories about loss of bank loans, loss of jobs and destruction of property). Then Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to enforce the 15th Amendment. In 1965, when the Act passed, there were no African-American U.S. Senators and only six African-American U.S. Congressmen.
This month, listen and learn something about the Black Experience. Read articles, watch movies, or even better, have a conversation! Listen and learn from someone you know. When you approach a conversation willing to listen and learn, share your intentions and ask if they are willing to share. It may be a very powerful conversation.