Who’s important to lift up in black history? What does it mean when we sing, “Lift every voice?”
I find it strange that there were objections to the Boston Police Department’s Black History Month tweet recognizing the role of Celtics coach Red Auerbach in, among other things, hiring Bill Russell as the first African-American head coach in the NBA. Doesn’t Abraham Lincoln get a lot of play for his role in freeing the slaves? What about the white Civil War soldiers who died to end the system of slavery? I think we need to lift up white people whenever they are doing the right thing.
I find it even more important when I think about what Russell then accomplished, not only through his leadership with the Celtics, but through his role in dealing with race discrimination in Boston housing and employment. How can there be an objection to recognizing someone who brought a man who accomplished all that to our city?
My hope is that the Boston Police Department sees Auerbach as a needed role model for the kind of relationships they should have with communities of color here in Boston, so that they also will be praised for their work. We need to see if they are taking cues from Auerbach — by providing the kinds of opportunities and services that will lift up all communities in the city. Auerbach is a model for not only how the department but how the whole city should function to bring out the best in all of us.
The writer, a longtime community activist, is a former state representative and former Boston mayoral candidate.