Dr. Josephine Bradley of the Africana Women’s Studies Program at Clark Atlanta University doesn’t know it but I often think about something she has said.
As a Civil Rights figure who played an integral part in school desegregation, it troubles her greatly that persons from younger generations sometimes blame integrationists for the undoing of strong black communities.
She talks about their efforts for equal rights and access to education, resources, and freedoms rather than for the mere chance to fraternize with whites. Dr. Bradley attributes misconceptions about the Civil Rights Movement to the failure of Civil Rights activists to adequately educate those who came after them about why they did what they did.
She speaks of how important context is in understanding anything that is being studied.
Dr. Bradley is right. Without an understanding of context, meanings cannot be understood in their fullness.
When I was in high school, I was in a program that allowed me to leave school at midday to go to work. I worked at the family-owned Atlanta Daily World and worked with The Scott Family, including Publisher C.A. Scott and his wife, Ruth P. Scott; their daughter, Portia A. Scott; Russell Simmons and his wife, Ruth Simmons; and C.A.’s nephew, W.A. Scott, III (father of current ADW Publisher/CEO Alexis Scott Reeves).
Of them all, “W.A.” stood out because he wore a round medal on a wide ribbon of red, white, and blue stripes around his neck every single day. So one day I asked him about it. I was really curious about the medal but I didn’t fully understand what he was talking about.
During the course of my college years my political viewpoints became more progressive and I developed a strong disdain for what I knew about the U.S. wars. I didn’t like the U.S. invasions I was learning about and my opinions began to change about those who served in the Armed Forces.
My respect for War Veterans diminished greatly and although I had a lasting fondness for W.A. and his kindness to me and others, I had mixed feelings about his claim to fame.
In 1992 when W.A. passed away, I paid my final respects to him. Years later, well after the 1995 release of the “The Tuskegee Airmen,” I watched the movie. That's when I came to understand what W.A. had told me and why he had been so proud of his service in the war. What brought clarity to my understanding was the dramatization of the movie. It helped me to better understand the historical context and significance of Black Veterans and the Tuskegee Airman in particular.
Those men hadn’t simply been “fighting the white man’s war.” They had broken down barriers.
Those vicious tons of steel in strategic formation that had monstrously flown at Tuskegee Airmen had represented deadly daggers of racism. Black Veterans had proven to the world that they were not mentally inferior. They had demonstrated their courage and competence.
What I hadn't known about William A. Scott, III was that he'd served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1946; and in 1944, he was sent to Germany where he was a photographer with the 318th Airbase Squadron and the 183rd Engineer Combat Battalion. During his assignment in Germany, he became one of the first Allied soldiers to enter Buchenwald, a Nazi concentration camp, to liberate prisoners of the Holocaust.
Yet and still the questions Sticman Deadprez raised on Facebook a few days ago are relevant: “are you for the US instigated wars of aggression in Iraq bombing the people there? are you for the US instigated wars of aggression in Afrika killing people there? if a black person pulls the trigger or sets the bombs off, are you with it then? "Just a red tail inspired, follow up question,” he asked his Facebook Friends.
Another of his posts that went into more detail struck a nerve. In fact, his post quickly generated 402 “likes," 177 comments, and 66 “shares."
I’m glad “Red Tails” has sparked such thought-provoking discussions. In the midst of many discussions I’ve realized that I still don't like U.S. invasions. I don't like how blacks are pawns in the game.
Moreover, I don’t like the destruction of people anywhere in the world regardless of imaginary lines to which humans make claim. I realize that I don't like that people's Mamas, Daddys, Children, and Grandparents anywhere are seen as "targets" and as "casualties, rather than as people.
I also realize that given the context in which Black WWII Veterans, including The Tuskegee Airmen did their thing, I have nothing but respect for W.A. and the rest of them.