We’re halfway through Black History Month and I’m embarrassed by the extreme ignorance I have about the many accomplishments by great Black Americans. I’m saddened by cultural naiveté, and after listening to the book White Fragility, I’m more aware of how much I don’t know.

The book White Fragility is written by Robin DiAngelo a white, female diversity trainer is a revealing investigation into the world of racial diversity. It has its detractors, but as a gay white male, I have to say that it was an eye-opening experience for me as I listened to her describe a reality that is parallel to my own existence, but one that I’ve never noticed, as we rarely see that which is directly next to us, but not in our line of sight.

My experience of this book was most enjoyable. Listening to the narrator Amy Landon share the stories and experiences of Ms. DiAngelo I found myself recognizing and identifying with some of her white centric reactions, and then as she unpacks them and explains them, I saw things that I was unaware of previously.

For example, the tale of Jackie Robinson, the “first Black man to break the color barrier” in baseball is one that most, if not all of us are familiar with, was retold. Rather than focusing on his “accomplishment” of “breaking the barrier” was the more accurate statement that he was the first Black Athlete who was “allowed to play.” Certainly had the owners decided that he wasn’t going to play, he wouldn’t have. The difference here is whether or not, Mr. Robinson was a standard bearer for his community (which he certainly was in many ways, and I’m not trying to take anything away from his many laudable accomplishments) or was he recipient of the White owners largesse, which really was just a way for them to benefit their own bottom line? I think we all know the true answer there.

This type of perspective change is what the book is about. It certainly confronts the uncomfortable realities of many a white person’s emotional inability to step outside their own reality to see things differently, but it does so in such a way that is reachable in my opinion. I found the authors stories and insights to be thought provoking and inspiring me to delve deeper into my views of the world. I did this while walking through Woodlawn Cemetery, which frankly added to the experience, because the cemetery is proof positive of just how multi-cultural Santa Monica has been throughout its history.

The many headstones in different languages, which date back to the early 1900s, are a testament to the diversity we have always had as a coastal town. Granted there is a vast majority of the residents who are middle class whites, as I imagine most of the Elks Club and the Mason’s who take up a goodly percentage of those buried there. But, walk through and you’ll see a wide variety of Asian, Middle Eastern, and Caucasian (from the Caucus region) headstones. It’s a curious fact I note, I can’t tell who is white and Black by their names for the most part, I’m not sure what to make of that, and will think further.

Walking through history like that is an experience that I would suggest more people do. Our history is our best way of knowing who we are. I say this in the middle of Black History month since as I was doing research for an author interview on my Men’s Family Law podcast. The book Men On Fire, written by Stephen Mansfield, is a motivational book. In it he relates a story of the day his world changed.

While attending a friend’s speech to a group of high school students, Mansfield was sitting in the audience as his friend prepared to speak to a group of mostly black youth. The American History professor got up and announced that he was going to tell the students who they were. The rowdy bunch of teens were restless, until he started sharing that Black Americans like: Leonard C. Baily created the folding bed; Maurice W. Lee created the smoker; ironing boards were created by Sarah Boone; Garret Morgan invented the gas mask; Dr. Charles Drew created both blood banks and the way to store plasma; laser cataract removal surgery was perfected by Dr. Patria Bath; and in the greatest contribution to humanity, the potato chip was created by George Crum, (okay that’s a bit of humor, but still, don’t we all love them?)

Black History is richer, deeper and more comprehensive than I learned in high school or college. That’s sad, but it is reversible. I can learn more about the contributions of Black Americans and intend to do so. Yes it’s uncomfortable at times to recognize my ignorance, but as Mom used to say, better to light a candle, than curse the night.

David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at dpisarra@pisarra.com or 310/664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra