Ignorance, racism and a good book
Dr. E. Faye Williams | 6/7/2019, 6 a.m.
Ignorance breeds racism. By ignorance, I don’t mean the lack of college or other educational degrees. I’m really talking about how some families teach their children to hate certain people based upon lies.
In order to really drive home the point, I recommend a book, “Confessions of a Recovering Racist,” by the late George O’Hare, in cooperation with Emma Young of Chicago.
Mr. O’Hare demonstrates how ignorance breeds racism as he talks about his upbringing and how he discovered the truth about the lies he was taught as a child about black people. Some of the book is humorous, but it is the best lesson for people to get to know each other before judging them. I know there are a lot of people who would prefer not to know the truth about those they already hate without cause, but truth can change others.
Mr. O’Hare speaks about how he became a changed person once he met, listened to, talked and worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dick Gregory, Jesse Jackson, Father George Clements, Willie Barrow and many others.
He writes of the time he attended a meeting of black people when a woman asked what he was doing there. He thought he’d explain to her how he believed in equality of all people and wanted to do what he could to help. The woman told him he didn’t belong there and should go back to his own community and talk with his own people.
When he told Dick Gregory about the encounter, Mr. Gregory agreed with the woman and said there were many people talking to the black community, but raised the question of who was talking to the racists in the white community.
Mr. O’Hare saw his opening. Because he had so much respect for Mr. Gregory, he began quizzing white people about things he had learned about the value of black people to our world. Once when a white man was telling him about his mother’s open heart surgery and she was doing well, he said to his friend, “So a black man saved your mother’s life.” The man could not believe it was a black man, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, who made medical history by performing the first successful open heart surgery and all heart surgeons use his techniques today.
Mr. O’Hare went on to enlighten his friend about Garrett Morgan, inventor of the traffic light and gas mask; Dr. Percy Julian, who discovered the value of Cortisone and invented foam used to put out fires; Dr. Shirley Jackson, who invented the touch-tone telephone, the portable fax, caller ID, call waiting and fiber optic cable; and Marie Van Brittan Brown, who developed a patent for closed-circuit television security.
Mr. O’Hare was so impressed with his newfound knowledge and appreciation of black people that totally discredited the stories he’d learned growing up. He now knew better than the lies about black people that he’d been taught and felt compelled to teach others. That’s why he decided to form the “National Association of Recovering Racists.” Naturally, he made his friend, Dick Gregory, chairman of the advisory board and Father Clements a member of the board.
White people, if you really want to learn how to deal with your racism, a good place to begin is by reading Mr. O’Hare’s book.
The writer is national president of the National Congress of Black Women.