Reflecting on lessons learned

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Marilyn B. Kyle
  • Regional Plans and Issues Division superintendent
As a Bolling African American Heritage Month committee member, I have had the opportunity to join a great bunch of folks in promoting February as a time to reflect on the sacrifices our forefathers and mothers made for us to get to this wonderful time of freedom we are enjoying now in today's society. 

Countless crimes against people of color have paved the way for the freedoms that we take for granted today. We, as a people, need to understand this country was built on the blood, sweat and tears of many strong and courageous people - and know that to forget those sacrifices would be a crime. 

If my grandmother and grandfather were alive today, I am sure they would say with great pride and enthusiasm that these are the days when we should all embrace each other and never let go. Who would have ever thought that 45 years ago, when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the "I had a dream speech," that we would be welcoming a 47 year-old African American as our 44th President? 

During the month, we need to not only take time to reflect, but time out to educate today's children, and those of future generations. They also need to understand that their basic freedoms were not always there - to be able to go to any school they want to, sit in the front of the bus, make friends with other children of any skin color, and more. 

I admit to limited knowledge of these experiences myself as a youngster. I grew up in Colorado Springs - very sheltered from a lot of the hateful experiences you sometimes hear about. My first real exposure to racism was when I visited Alabama for the Christmas holidays when I was around 13 or 14 years old. My grandmother took us downtown to do some Christmas shopping and told us that if we came upon Caucasian people we were not to look them in the eye. 

I had so many white friends in Colorado that I just could not understand the reasoning behind this, and being young, of course, I questioned her. She told me that white people thought it was disrespectful for a black person to look them straight in their eyes. She informed me with a very stern face that not every state was like Colorado and that people in the south did not treat black people the same way. At that point in my life, I had just not been exposed to racism or raised to believe I was less of a person because of the color of my skin. Unfortunately, as my life progressed I became all too aware of the discriminations that happen because of a person's skin color. 

African American Heritage month means so much to people of all colors, sex, races, and religions - because it gives them a time to reflect on how far we've come as a society. Today, you're allowed to be whatever you want to be, do whatever it takes to be who you want to be and to dream big. 

There are so many great African American inventors, scientists, and heroes that contributed to the success of this great nation that we may never learn about them all. But with one of the most recognizable faces in the free world today, President Barrack Obama, is a prize example of an African-American stepping beyond the color of his skin and uniting the nation. 

So take the time out this month, and every month, to teach our children that all men and women are created equal and to appreciate those that came before us that made it that way. Now is the time to quell any last vestiges of hatred and prejudice just because someone looks different. Today's world allows us all to be protected, prosperous and happy - no matter the color of our skin.