Black History Month: Forgive but never forget

James Holly M.D

February has been being celebrated as Black History Month since 1926. 

Bitterness, hatred, prejudice, anger and bigotry affect the physical health as much as they poison the soul of men and women. The improvement of the mental, spiritual and emotional health of a nation will improve the health of the members of that society.

But how can the knowledge of and the celebration of any history, and particularly of black history, improve our public health? As we “know people,” even vicariously, through the study of history, we can grow as individuals, as a people and, indeed, as a nation. 

My pilgrimage from the social mores of my youth, which included racial prejudice, began when I was 13 years old and continued in Africa, where I served as a summer missionary in 1964. I fell in love with the African people, and that love immediately extended to the African-Americans in our country. I realized how deeply the racial strife in our country was when after speaking to a statewide religious youth group in October 1964, addressing the implications of our faith upon civil rights, as a student, I was never asked to speak in the state again. I realized anew how hard these issues are to resolve when I spoke to a pro-life rally in that same state 30 years later. When I stated that the racist is blood-brother to the abortionist, there was not the enthusiasm that there was for opposing abortion.

Two incidences in black history still haunt me. They continue to remind me that we must never forget the sickness of racism, for if we do, we will be doomed to repeat the history that we failed to — or refused to — remember.

To read the full "Your Life, Your Health with James Holly M.D." column in the January 25th issue of The Examiner, as well as the full issue, subscribe and read online:

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Dr. James L. Holly is CEO of Southeast Texas Medical Associates, LLP (SETMA) in Beaumont.