BY MAURICE W. DORSEY, PH.D. | My grandparents were poor and did not graduate high school. They only knew and staunchly believed in their Christian faith and used it each day to get through profound racism, low wages, dilapidated segregated housing, education inequality, and verbal abuse to their face and behind their backs.When I think of African American History Month, I think of the generations of Black People who have preceded me, some who struggled to live through the torture and suffering of slavery before the birth of my grandparents and parents and long before my birth.
I think of my parents who finished high school, raised and educated their children through college. They built their first home at age 40. It was a struggle, and huge sacrifices were made to achieve middle class standards.
I reflect on myself now at age 70, my birth certificate reads that my race was colored, then I later was designated Negro, later I was Black, later still I was referred to as Afro-American, and now I am called African American, with each decade my identity, as well as all others’ in this situation, changed. I attended a segregated public school for 10 years that was substandard to its white counterpart. I graduated the only Black person in my high school class of 460. In 1964, I was required to seat in the back of the school bus, I was called “nigger” by the white students and “boy” by the white school principal who did not think a Black student should graduate with an academic diploma, but I did.
I recognize the immense pro-gress African Americans have made in science, education, politics, athletics, entertainment, and the arts — as well as the previous White House. Their achievements along with the help of benevolent whites have advanced and furthered the quality of life for African Americans. This portfolio of achievements makes me feel grateful and proud.
Since the 1960s, I have lived abundantly, I have earned three graduate degrees and earned a six-figure salary, and I live in a downtown Washington neighborhood near 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where the prevailing desire is to turn the clock back on Black History.
When I think of Black History in 2018, I think back to the struggles of my grandparents, parents, and myself, who in the 1960s integrated a white school 10 years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision because the Department of Education in the county where I attended school got away with refusing to implement federal law for 10 years!
The harsh policies, lies, verbal assaults, and abuse that come from the White House and are formulated in Congress not only affect African Americans but people around the world. Moving from a personal story to a worldwide story, the struggles of the African American is the same struggle for women, the LGBTQ community, the physically challenged, veterans, children, the economically deprived, and all others. Our struggle is everybody’s struggle. What is most disturbing to me is to see African Americans who have a national and sometimes global platform who could challenge white nationalism but have chosen to remain mute. History will show when all is said and done, however, that they are still Black and will have the same Black experience as the rest of us.
Black History in 2018 is not a time to celebrate; it is a time to recognize how far we have come, our strengths and achievements. And we need to recognize and galvanize to perform the work that is in front of us that remains to get done. We need to ensure the accomplishments of our ancestors are not reversed and the clock is not turned back. The struggle is not over.
Maurice W. Dorsey is author of “Businessman First: Remembering Henry G. Parks, Jr., 1916-1989 — Capturing the Life of a Businessman Who Was African American, A Biography,” a QBR Wheatley Book Award Finalist, and “From Whence We Come,” the story of an African American gay man who must come to terms with his mother, who, throughout his life, tells him she never wanted to have him. Both are available at Xlibris.com and Amazon.com. Contact Dorsey at mauricewdo