Black History Month

To honor “them,” our country gave “them” the shortest month of the year. Wouldn’t December have been a better choice to reject our ancestor’s sins of the past and our present, more subtle ways, in thinking and acting around “them?”

Amazingly, in one of the most segregated cities in the country (Milwaukee, WI,) we presently have one of “them” as our acting mayor, police chief, sheriff, and county executive. Go, figure! Where did we go right for a change? Are we the generation to finally take those bedsheets off our heads? Hiding our faces from faces we do not know but only hear the worst about “them?”

“They’ve” complimented me more about what I’m wearing than the lighter bunch. I like that. Years ago, after parking, I was walking to St. Joseph’s Hospital to visit a parishioner. Four of “them” were walking behind me. Do I walk faster? Do I move my wallet from the back to the front? Do I run? They continued on my path to the hospital entrance and entered the elevator. “How ya’ doing,” one of “them” says to me and said to me in a delivery that I find “cool.” “Great,” says the bland lighter-skinned priest with that bland one-word response. “Four against one?” some may ask. Or, five healthy guys anxious to see a sick relative or parishioner in anxious pain?

My wallet never moved but I was moved about my silly fears. TV-driven trepidations? Was it my small-town experience of never meeting one of “them” until high school? I don’t know. Is it powerfully and subtlety ingrained without my knowledge or first-hand understanding.

“They’ve” got the shortest month of the year for us to respect the disrespect of centuries of brutal beatings and death that no church bulletin can print. But it happened. And, it is still disguisedly happening. I’ve learned that racism can never be eliminated. It can only be dismantled, one thought and one encounter at a time. It can only be managed by acknowledging that five guys, in an elevator alone, wish to extend prayers and blessings to someone in need.

February isn’t a short month. I strongly believe that it is us who are short.

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on
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