By Dr. Michael Forbes who is a pediatric critical care specialist and chair of the department of pediatrics at Akron Children’s Hospital.
For me, Black History Month is a time to pause, learn, reflect, and look ahead.
As a Black American in an immigrant family, I have come to understand that there are many Americas. My family taught and believed in the American meritocracy—work hard in America and good things will happen. I gulped the meritocracy narrative down hook, line, and sinker.
In my adulthood, I’ve come to realize it’s much more complicated than that. The meritocracy is real; my life is a living testimony to the powerful miracle that is the American meritocracy. However, the maldistribution of wealth and opportunity created by the original architects of this great country are incompletely understood, yet undeniable. The wholesale condemnation of blackness in 1619 that facilitated and buoyed the inhuman slave trade remains America’s congenital disease; the shameful discounting of selected European immigrants at the turn of the 20th century continues to burden them today, despite our efforts to simplify our cultural categorizations into “Black” or “White.”
These regrettable, horrific mistakes however, have served to solidify my sense of pride in the fortitude of African Americans. Doomed to extinction by northern social scientists in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Black Americans not only have survived, we continue to rise, leveraging the American meritocracy. Today, we already are the only developed nation where an ethnic minority has served not one, but 2 terms as President of the United States. In 2021, we can look ahead at the realistic odds that we may have our first Black female president in our lifetime! With its history, its warts and vitriol, this remains my America and I am prouder than ever.
Black History Month reminds me, and maybe all of us, that this American journey—this celebration of human diversity– is far from over. I am excited when I think about our shared future and what we can accomplish together. I have never been more proud to be an African American.