"Inappropriate" History

"Inappropriate" History

© David Burton 2018


     “Black History Month, or African-American History Month, in the U.S. began in 1976 after initially running as a weeklong national event, according to a website created in part by The Library of Congress”. (Ref. 1) On Sunday, 11 February 2018, to mark Black History Month, the Boston Police Depart released the following on its twitter account:

“In honor of Black History Month we pay tribute to Celtics legend Red Auerbach for being the first NBA coach to draft a black player in 1950, field an all African-American starting five in 1964 and hire the league’s first African-American head coach (Bill Russell) in 1966.” (Ref. 2)

     Immediately, a storm of protests arose, mea kulpas were issued, and the Boston Police Department quickly deleted the tweet. Boston Mayor, Marty Walsh, perhaps fearing a race riot and a repeat of the bad publicity Boston received after its forced integration of the Boston schools back in the 1974–1988 time period, almost instantly issued the following: “Yesterday’s tweet from the Boston Police Department was completely inappropriate and a gross misrepresentation of how we are honoring Black History Month in Boston.” (Ref. 2) Horrors of horrors – what could be more outrageous than honoring a white man who did more to improve the lives of African Americans than 99.9% of the Black people living in these United States? Joining the attempt to whitewash the contribution of Red Auerbach to the advancement of Blacks in America was a Boston City Councilor who denounced the BPD tweet, in effect, claiming that no white should have a claim to be mentioned in Black History.

     There have been many whites who have contributed to the advancement of Blacks in American Society and who are an integral part of American Black history. Two of these whites, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, along with a Black, James Chaney, were civil rights workers who were working to register black voters in Mississippi. On 21 June 1964, they were murdered by a Ku Klux Klan lynch mob near Meridian, Mississippi.[3] Should we remember the one Black, James Chaney, and forget the two whites, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, who were all brutally beaten and murdered by the KKK? Is mention of the names of two whites, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman “inappropriate” in connection with fight to gain racial equality for Blacks? Should we remember only the sacrifice of a black, James Chaney, and blot out the names of the two whites who were killed alongside Chaney?

     Will someone please tell me what was “inappropriate” about paying tribute to someone who took concrete and lasting steps to improve the lives of Black Americans! “Red was the first NBA coach to draft a black player and field an all-black starting five. Later as team president, he hired Bill Russell to be the first-ever black head coach in the NBA. Isn’t that a significant series of steps in Black American History? How is remembering what Red Auerbach did for Blacks ‘inappropriate’ during Black History Month?
     “Oh, that’s right: Red was white. And so now Boston liberals are blue.”
      - - -
     “I’m not big on race-specific events like Black History Month or Miss Hispanic USA or ‘The Left-Handed Pacific Islanders Softball League,’ etc. But I think — and correct me if I’m wrong here — the point of Black History Month is remembering and celebrating events related to the history of black people in the United States. [Emphasis mine] You know — like, say, the end of slavery, or the passing of the Voting Rights Act, or (not nearly as profound but still a pretty big deal) the first black player and coach in the NBA.
     “Here’s the problem: How do you celebrate any of these major moments in black history without talking about those ‘inappropriate’ people who made them possible?
     "How did Chuck Cooper become the first black player drafted by an NBA team? How did Earl Lloyd become the first to play in an NBA regular-season game in 1950? Did it happen because these athletes were so amazingly talented the color bar fell before them? Of course not. For years, tremendously talented athletes were kept out of the NBA by the racist policies of the league.
     “Who ended those racist policies?— the white guys {guys like Red Auerbach!}.
     “Arguing that the BPD ‘did something wrong’ by honoring Auerbach during Black History Month . . . is like arguing that honoring Abraham Lincoln or Ulysses S. Grant during Black History Month is wrong, too. . .
      - - -
     “The central event at the core of the black experience in America is slavery and its impact. And who ended slavery? Who liberated 4 million black Americans? Why, President Abraham {a white guy} and the armies of General Ulysses S. {Grant, a white guy}, of course!” (Ref. 4)

     Lincoln emancipated Black slaves and, arguably, gave his life as a result. As a general and then as a president, Grant fought to bring former slaves into mainstream American life at a time such a concept was largely unimaginable. In appreciation of his efforts, Ulysses S. Grant, a white guy, received the following accolade from Frederick Douglas, the most notable Black American of his time: “To Grant more than any other man the Negro owes his enfranchisement.” (Ref. 5) Was such a tribute “inappropriate” then? Is it “inappropriate” today?

     In 1965, who pushed the Voting Rights Act — the most important legislation related to justice for black Americans since the 13th Amendment — through an all-white U.S. Senate? Over the objections of his fellow Democrats? President Lyndon Baines Johnson, a white southern Democrat did! Should this achievement be erased from Black history?

     “Yes, Red Auerbach was ‘inappropriately’ white. That is the ugly truth. And if he hadn’t been white, he wouldn’t have been able to play his role in history. No, Red didn’t make Bill Russell a superstar. Russell did that on his own, with talent and hard work.
     “But you know what Russell couldn’t do in 1966? Make himself the head coach of an NBA team. That took a white guy.
     “Ah, but we can’t mention that guy until March 1 {when Black History Month ends}. That’s when the facts will stop being ‘inappropriate’ and return to being mere history once again.” (Ref. 4)

     History is history, whether it’s Greek history, Native American history or Black American history. And, rather than hiding some “inappropriate” elements of history, we have much to learn from all of history. As stated by George Santayana, "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." (Ref. 6) What is inappropriate is the suppression of “inappropriate” facts of history!

     Fighting for the lives and rights of one’s own community is certainly meritorious, but fighting for the lives and rights of those who are not part of one’s community is far more admirable. Jews who rose up to fight against their Nazi oppressors were doing so because it was their lives for which they were fighting. But, for Gentiles to oppose the Nazis and risk their lives to save Jewish lives was far more commendable – after all, their lives would not have been at risk had they closed their eyes and ignored the plight of the Jews. Jews and the State of Israel have long recognized this fact and have taken special note of Gentiles who, during the Holocaust, risked their lives to help save the lives of Jews. To paraphrase John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to risk one's life for one's friends.”

     “Righteous Among the Nations”, is a term used by the State of Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis. Israel has paid a special and “appropriate” tribute to those non-Jews who are now an immutable part of Jewish history. Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, has special, prominent and permanent acknowledgements and tributes to these “Righteous Among the Nations”.

     “The Righteous Among the Nations, honored by by Yad Vashem, are non-Jews who took great risks to save Jews during the Holocaust. Rescue took many forms and the Righteous came from different nations, religions and walks of life. What they had in common was that they protected their Jewish neighbors at a time when hostility and indifference prevailed.
     “Attitudes towards the Jews during the Holocaust mostly ranged from indifference to hostility. The mainstream watched as their former neighbors were rounded up and killed; some collaborated with the perpetrators; many benefited from the expropriation of the Jews property.
     “In a world of total moral collapse there was a small minority who mustered extraordinary courage to uphold human values. These were the Righteous Among the Nations. They stand in stark contrast to the mainstream of indifference and hostility that prevailed during the Holocaust. Contrary to the general trend, these rescuers regarded the Jews as fellow human beings who came within the bounds of their universe of obligation.
     “Most rescuers started off as bystanders. . . {But, u}nlike others, they did not fall into a pattern of acquiescing to the escalating measures against the Jews.
      - - -
     “Faced with Jews knocking on their door, bystanders were faced with the need to make an instant decision. This was usually an instinctive human gesture, taken on the spur of the moment and only then to be followed by a moral choice. . .
     “. . . {The} Germans executed not only the people who sheltered Jews, but their entire family as well. Notices warning the population against helping the Jews were posted everywhere. . . In consequence, rescuers . . . lived under constant fear of being caught; there was always the danger of denunciation by neighbors or collaborators. . . Those who decided to shelter Jews had to sacrifice their normal lives and to embark upon a clandestine existence – often against the accepted norms of the society in which they lived, in fear of their neighbors and friends – and to accept a life ruled by dread of denunciation and capture.” (Ref. 7)

     Israel and Jews throughout the world honor the memories of these heroes at different sites in Yad Vashem. “The Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations was inaugurated in 1962. Trees, symbolic of the renewal of life, have been planted . . . in honor of those non-Jews who acted according to the noblest principles of humanity by risking their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Plaques adjacent to each tree record the names of those being honored along with their country of residence during the war.
     “The Garden of the Righteous is situated next to the Valley of the Communities. There {the} names of the Righteous Among the Nations . . . are engraved on the walls of honor. {Unfortunately, s}ome rescuers will forever remain anonymous.
      - - -
     ”Wishing to honor these unknown heroes, Yad Vashem erected a monument to the anonymous rescuer in the Avenue of the Righteous.(Ref. “ 8)

     Among those “Righteous Among the Nations” who are “appropriately” honored and remembered at Yad Vashem are: Oskar Schindler, a German, Raul Wallenberg, a Swede, and Chiune Sugihare, a Japanese – none of them Jewish! Jews and Israel do not consider honoring these people and all the other Righteous Among the Nations to be "inappropriate" during international Holocaust Memorial Week or at any other time. Jews and Israel will be always remember them and be grateful for whatthey did.

     Have we now come to the point where we must succumb to the demands of the PC Police that we whitewash history? During Black History Month in America, should we erect signs that read “No Whites allowed!”? What has happened to all that talk about equal rights and diversity - during Black History Month, does that mean for Blacks only?


  1. Boston Police Department Honored A White Man For Black History Month, Nina Golgowski, huffingtonpost,
    12 February 2018.
  2. Tweet, Boston Police Dept.@bostonpolice. Twitter, 11 February 2018.
  3. The KKK kills three civil rights activists, This Day in History - JUN 21, Accessed 14 February 2018.
  4. White guys get points in black history, Michael Graham, Boston herald, Page 15, 13 February 2018.
  5. Grant, Ron Chernow, Penguin Press, Page 746, 2017.
  6. The lessons of history - famous quotations and quotes, age-of-the-sage.org, Accessed 13 February 2018.
  7. The Righteous Among The Nations , www.yadvashem.org, Accessed 14 February 2018.
  8. Honoring the Righteous, www.yadvashem.org, Accessed 15 February 2018.

  16 February 2018 {Article 317; Suggestions?_08}    
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