Mike Wallace: Black history month you find ridiculous. Why?
Morgan Freeman: You’re going to relegate my history to a month?
Mike Wallace: Oh, c’mon.
Morgan Freeman: What do you do with yours? Which month is white history month? Well, c’mon, tell me.
Mike Wallace: I’m Jewish.
Morgan Freeman: OK, which month is Jewish history month?
Mike Wallace: There isn’t one.
Morgan Freeman: Oh, oh. Why not? Do you want one?
Morgan Freeman: No, I don’t either. I don’t want a black history month. Black history is American history.
Mike Wallace: How we gonna get rid of racism until…
Morgan Freeman: Stop talking about it. 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.
I certainly concur that Black history month is a problematic creation. By choosing a special month of the year to fixate on Black history, it sustains an African American identity as separate and unequal. Pulling out pictures of MLK, or other Black leaders once a year does not create an environment of inclusiveness rather it signals that Black history is so unimportant that we need not discuss it throughout the year.
Freeman’s solution to ending racism is in a word naive. Simply avoiding race or failing to acknowledge that difference does exist will not end systemic racism. This colorblind world is very much what the white supremacist state would love oppressed people of color to believe, even as we must daily endure the humiliation and pain of being understood as lesser than beings.
Freeman is in the enviable position of having class privilege to mitigate his racial stigmatization, even if he is not able to completely escape the process of “othering”. Black celebrities have learned very quickly that should they run afoul of the law that the good graces of whiteness disappears. How quick was the media to darken images of OJ Simpson, their once beloved football hero?
Race is a social construction and from that point of view a false creation, however the value that we have assigned to difference is quite real. We don’t look at each other and see another human being because from birth we have been taught to think otherwise. .
We cannot just look at each other as individuals because racism is systemic. Race colors our views on must subjects whether or not we are conscious of its insidious nature. When we look at someone for the very first time, mentally we run through a checklist to assess them and in those initial moments race colors how we expect to be treated.
There is a power differential between Blacks and Whites and until it has dissipated, an African American cannot afford to let their guard down. Even in the closest relationships, the White party will always have the ability to fall back on their privilege and shame, exploit or otherwise demean a POC. We must forever be dependent on the ability of a white person to see past race to be understood as human whereas whiteness is automatically endowed with humanity.
Freeman can put on his colorblind glasses and dream about a world he wished existed, however I prefer to see the world as it is. I may carry my scars but a denial of the role that racism plays means a denial of the Blackness of my skin.