Published February, 2002
Approaching another Black History Month
I Personally think BLACK HISTORY MONTH/WEEK/DAY or whatever, is a real nice way for ALL Americans to take note and be proud of what blacks as a people can accomplish when we set our minds, our hands and our intellect to it, but sadly, black history has been on virtual hold since the advent of the "Great Society" and the civil rights battles of the 60's.
Not that the laws and the society are the blame, far from it. The activism of Martin Luther King, Jesse Jackson, Rosa Parks, Andrew Young, and the hundreds of other soldiers for justice clearly helped open doors and pave the way for opportunities for blacks and women to lift themselves up and take their places as full participants in the great American dream.
I would be the last to deny the enormous contribution these and lesser known heroes have made to not only blacks but to America in general.
What I can't deny is the perception, yea, even the fact that instead of working to overcome, black people have apparently taken the position that passage of the law completes the "overcoming", "the dream" is reality, and now it's just a matter of waiting for the checks to arrive. We have been sitting around and complaining, and have accomplished precious little and overcome nothing since the laws supposedly eliminated discrimination and made us all suddenly equal in every respect.
I'm reminded of the black South African woman who, while waiting her turn to vote for Nelson Mandela after the downfall of apartheid, responded to a reporter's question with, "Now, we will all have houses like the (white) Afrikaners!". Half a generation later and she is still waiting, patiently I presume.
Most of the history that we will read about over the month of February will be about events that occurred 50 years ago or more, and the only things we have accomplished since then have been "He was the first black to (do something)...", or "She was a successful applicant for (something)...", as if just being black and doing something ordinary is an accomplishment in itself. Most of the great 'firsts' by black people lately have been accomplishments that whites make routinely, not due to discrimination or because they had the "luck of the draw" in being white, but because they worked their butts off and didn't wait for help from some politician.
These days, blacks' accomplishments are measured by who does what while in the White House, and now that an alleged enemy inhabits that recently fumigated address, our accomplishments are in danger of completely disappearing for at least four years, if you let the poverty pimps tell it.
Since 1960, Al Gore has “invented the Internet”, white America has perfected the PC, written software that runs the world, developed products and processes that have CHANGED the world, even visited other worlds while black America has to point back half a century and beyond, to the accomplishments of those who labored under ten times the oppression and discrimination that we have since reconstruction, but accomplished ten times more than we have since.
For sure we should be proud of and celebrate the accomplishments of George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington, Mme C.E. Walker, the Tuskegee Airmen, the Buffalo Soldiers, and a host of others who did so much with so little and under circumstances that suppressed hope, potential, everything except the soul and spirit. Look at how long ago these events transpired. Seventy, eighty, a hundred years? More?
Sixty years ago a group of black Army aviators flew more than three hundred escort missions, protecting thousands of allied bombers heading to and from Germany. These "Tuskegee Airmen", as we know them today, flew in the powerful P-47 "Thunderbolt" and the sleek, fast and deadly (for friendly AND enemy pilots alike) P-51 "Mustang" fighter planes, all single seaters, while our bomber crews comprised of up to thirteen men per plane. Simple math tells you that about 300-55 Tuskegee Airmen were responsible for thousands of bomber pilots and crew and NEVER LOST A SINGLE ONE OF THEM! No other unit accomplished such a feat before or since.
More than a hundred years ago, settlers crossing the plains during the settling of the American West facing hordes of Indian attackers bent on their utter destruction, were escorted, protected and many times rescued by units of Cavalry troopers who charged into the attacking forces with guns blazing and sabers rattling. We have no record of how many settlers were saved or protected, but one testament to the effectiveness of the Cavalry is the fact that today Reno, Nevada is covered by casinos rather than tepees. Oh. And the bulk of those soldiers who helped protect the settlers and thus facilitate the settling of the American West were BLACK. We know them as the Buffalo Soldiers. I am proud to say that I recently became a member of the local Buffalo Soldiers unit.
There is not a whole lot with which to compare the accomplishments of these two groups of American heroes who, at the time of their actions were only doing their jobs, probably because no one else wanted to do it.
The present day black population vis-a-vis the enormous and largely ignored opportunities which have been presented to us over the past quarter century, with sincerest apologies to Sir Winston Churchill; "Never before in the annals of human history have so many done so little with so much".
The prevailing attitude of a majority of blacks, reinforced by the rhetoric of the race hustlers of the day, is that "I can't take a step forward unless a white man takes a step back" or "I'm where I am because of what some white guy did".. You can get a black person in America to talk all day about what Bill Clinton or Ted Kennedy did for blacks, but we can't construct a single paragraph to talk about what we have done for ourselves, and that's true whether you are a black liberal OR conservative. Even when blacks had the chance to accomplish something (actually help elect a president) we thought important to us, we blew it in a blizzard of unmarked ballots, pregnant chads, and overvotes.
I suppose we could crow about having the Confederate flag removed from public buildings throughout most of the South. That one made us all smarter, richer, and all our troubles are gone! I know I woke up the morning after the Georgia flag was changed and felt the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders and there was a brand new Cadillac in the garage! Yeah. Right. I ain't even GOT a garage.
A generation from now, there will be nothing else to tell our grandchildren about the black history that is being made TODAY. There AIN'T none... unless you want to discuss the results of the voting in Florida, otherwise known as "the scandal in the panhandle", which should go down in history as a NEGATIVE accomplishment.
But we need to stay positive.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Steven Lemon
All rights reserved