Five days after International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Americans began observing Black History Month. It's the tale of two struggles - or is it?
Both groups, Blacks and Eastern European Jews share stories of unfathomable atrocities of every kind. Both groups share stories of inspirational triumphs, succeeding through incredible odds. The stories intersect at different points along the way. Sometimes positively, other times negatively.
The survivors of the Holocaust want the world to "never forget". Slavery and Jim Crow's survivors want the same. The fact is that the world will never forget. It cannot.
You see, every group of people has an oppression tradition. The times, places, and types will vary, but man's inhumanity to man is a hallmark of our human existence on Earth. Though it's seldom broached, the Holocaust was about the genocidal oppression of more than just the Jewish people. According to the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust website, it included the Roma and Sinti people (sometimes referred to as ‘Gypsies’) and black people. Slavic people, such as those from Poland and Russia, were considered inferior and were targeted because they lived in areas needed for German expansion.
The Nazis wanted to ‘improve’ the genetic make-up of the population and so persecuted people they deemed to be disabled, either mentally or physically, as well as gay people. Political opponents, primarily communists, trade unionists and social democrats, as well as those whose religious beliefs conflicted with Nazi ideology, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, were also targeted for persecution.
Slavery and Jim Crow proponents brutalized and humiliated more than just Black people. They included Native American men women and children, Asians, and Hispanics as well. There were even white Irishmen who found themselves caught up in the enslaver's web.
The oppression, othering, and subjugation of people groups is still ongoing around the world. It is recognized most notably these days as invasion, occupation, and human trafficking. Is this because we have forgotten? No. This is not happening because we have forgotten. As it turns out, memory is not a deterrent. If it were, the pain we've caused one another would have been relegated to a shameful, distant past a long time ago. So what is the impetus for our current tolerance of atrocities? Advantage.
As lead singer David Byrn of the band "Talking Heads" once wrote, "Same as it ever was." Some oppressors see monetary gain. Others see land rich in raw materials. Some see the silencing of their religiopolitical enemies. Still, others see a wealth in the explanation of human labor. In every case, it's the value of something else over and above human life that leads to the subjugation of the "others".
When human beings begin to see that the lives of other human beings (along with their dignity) is just as valuable and indispensable as their own, regardless of anything else, we as a species will finally have turned the proverbial corner. We will have reached our next evolutionary level.
So until then, never forget.
Always observe these times when people say, "We struggled, we bled, we died." If you do, you may be helping to expedite the day when no one ever has to say that again.