After reading today's post at One Shot Poetry , which celebrates Black History Month, I was reminded of my experience in learning Black History.
During the seventies, I lived in Germany with my husband who was in the Air Force. He once attended a mandatory training on Human/Race Relations, which I then attended also. Due to his interest and enthusiasm, he was transferred to that department and became part of the official training staff for about a year.
My enthusiasm about the training, which focused on the plight and contributions of minorities, especially those of African Americans, became known to the counterpart department in the Army. I was asked to volunteer and was happy to do so. Of course, there's no better way to learn something than to teach it.
I suppose this training was developed in response to the turmoil of the sixties. I was impressed that the military would develop and sponsor the teaching of such a controversial topic. The training attempted to teach details of history but also to raise consciousness regarding the many facets of prejudice and racism and its implications for human relations. It was quite radical. I'm surprised we trainers didn't get in trouble with the establishment - it was the military after all.
My education was significantly expanded. In addition to many other things, I learned that prejudice has no racial boundaries. We are all prejudiced about something - its human. Our brain is wired to judge based on the information or misinformation it gets. I remember one African American young man asking me how often my husband beat me. He had heard that Puerto Rican macho men always hit their wives. A Mexican-American man wondered if Puerto Rican women carry knives too - like the men do.
Any aspect of letting go is difficult. We encountered a lot of resistance acknowledging and letting go of stereotypes. But the majority of participants were eventually receptive. Overall, the program was effective and made a difference. I'm not certain, but I think it has been discontinued.
Those were good times full of hope. Today I still hope, dream, pray that there will someday be no need for race relations programs anywhere because we've realized that diversity is beautiful and we are all little manifestations of the same thing - humanity.