In light of current events, I feel compelled to mention another of my favorite Black History Month lessons drawn from the lives of Thomas Edison and Lewis Latimer. Unlike Douglass and Smalls, Edison and Latimer had dissimilar backgrounds and life experiences. Edison was a White Midwesterner. Latimer, who lived in Boston, was the son of former slaves. Despite their differences, they both were inventors with penchants for entrepreneurship.
Getting beyond this moment and finding “reckoning, redemption, and hope,” may require getting outside of our comfort zones. We may feel safe and secure remaining inside our bubble interacting only with those who look and think like us. But doing so risks living in echo chambers and insular existences. It prevents the taking of bold and courageous steps like Douglass and Smalls did, and respecting the experiences of others like Edison and Latimer did.
Congress has become a clear example of this entrenchment. We are being hampered and undermined by a deadly pandemic, inept leadership and deep ideological divides. America needs bold innovative solutions and Americans want leaders who are willing to step outside their comfort zones.