Won’t You Be My Neighbor

Fred Rogers produced and starred in Mister Rogers Neighborhood on public television for 33 years. He was noted for being a kind and friendly neighbor. Rodgers was an ordained Presbyterian minister and used the television show to advocate and address various social issues, including divorce, political assassinations, children with disabilities and racism.

This month marks the beginning of Black History Month in our nation. I advocate that Black history is American history and therefore should be celebrated from January 1 – December 31st. 

Fred Rogers introduced Officer Clemons as a character on the program. Officer Clemons was a Black man. His presence on the show was intentional and strategic. During one powerful scene, Mister Rogers invited Officer Clemons to cool his hot, tired feet in the same wadding pool that he was soaking his own feet in. This was revolutionary and counter cultural because some Whites in America poured bleach into the swimming pools to prevent Blacks from swimming in the same pools as they did. This segregationalist mindset is born out of fear and is still manifested in our society and institutions. This is a sin of racism and denies the image of God born upon every human being. I salute Mister Fred Rogers this month with his own words by which he closed each program by saying…

“You’ve made this day a special day by just being you. There is no person in the whole world like you. And I like you just the way you are.”

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