Ignoring important abstractions

Published 10:17 pm Monday, February 20, 2017

By Joseph L. Bass

It is interesting to watch what is highlighted during Black History Month. Americans don’t know much about any kind of history, mainly because of the content of school and university texts and libraries.

The study of history can be divided into three areas: events, things, and abstract concepts. Typically, history studies, books and libraries include information on events and things, but abstract concepts are mostly ignored. Black History Month is no different.

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Black history speeches and articles always include a list of things black people invented. They also include events occurring during the civil rights movement.

There is mention of Dr. King’s dream that people will be judged based on their character instead of the color of their skin. There is no discussion on the abstract concepts behind his dream. And his concepts are ignored politically and socially.

Blackness and whiteness are universal themes in our society today. Character issues are not mentioned.

Frederick Douglass is another great thinker. His writings are rarely read and, if read, his abstract concepts are ignored. If anyone were interested, his book “The Most Complete Collection of His Written Works & Speeches” is highly recommended.

Some Americans know Douglass’ name and that he was an escaped slave, abolitionist, and civil rights advocate. Few know events in his life. He was the first black man nominated to be vice president of the United States and the first to be approved by the U.S. Senate for a presidential appointment as U.S. Marshal of the District of Columbia.

Douglass’ writings include a great deal of abstract wisdom. For example, his observations on the different types of societies in 19th century America have application in world society today.

Douglass lived in the South as a slave. He lived in the North after he escaped. He learned how to work in shipbuilding as a slave, and, once escaped, he did the same work in the North to earn a living for his family.

In the South, Douglass observed three classes of people. The largest percentage were black slaves. A few whites were incredibly rich. Non-slave owning whites were poor and didn’t live much better than slaves.

In the North, Douglass observed different classes of people. A few whites were incredibly rich. But the non-slave owning whites and blacks (including Douglass himself) worked and lived much better lives, as opposed to the poor whites in the South.

What Douglass observed has international application today. In America, we continue to strive toward an egalitarian society. Even if we have not yet achieved our goal, we do better than the nations that are class-based, like our South during slavery and Jim Crow.

Immigrants to America come from class-based nations where there are few opportunities. They escape from oppressive nations, just as Douglass did.

All Americans need to learn from Frederick Douglass. We need to study and understand the abstract concepts upon which our nation is based and continue to strive to advance them as Douglass advanced them during his lifetime.

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at ABetterSociety1@aol.com.