Tom Brokaw, renowned newscaster and television personality, has referred to the people who lived through the Great Depression and went on to fight World War II as “the greatest generation any society has ever produced.”
This generation has given me bountiful family blessings. Even though several of my aunts, uncles, father and mother-in-law, grandparents, and some other family members have transitioned on to Glory, my parents, some uncles, aunts, and a few family friends, are still here and in their 80’s and 90’s.
Throughout my lifetime, I have been told countless stories of African-American life during the early 1900’s, the Great Depression, and accounts of life after World War II.
One such story was told to me by my Dad. He was wounded on D-Day during the invasion of Normandy. He once told my brother and I the story of his white Lieutenant, a West Point graduate, who for almost 2 months prior to their departure for Normandy would refer to his soldiers condescendingly as “you boys.” While spouting his extensive military training, Dad said that he would constantly emphasize the need to follow his directions and orders upon entering combat.
According to Dad, there was only one problem. As the personnel carrier doors began to open onto the beach of Normandy, with the rounds ricocheting off of the opening door of the personnel carrier, the Lieutenant ordered his “boys” to stand up, get ready to follow him into battle, and then promptly fainted.
My father-in-law and other of my uncles, fought and travelled in the European Theatre. They have also shared memories with me over the years about their wartime experiences. To a man, they all recounted some terrific and fun-filled experiences while serving our country during WWII. To a man, they all have also recounted experiences of racism, more often promulgated by their fellow white American soldiers than from European allies.
One of the amusing antics, shared by them with me, was about some of the white U.S. soldiers. Apparently, they would tell the European females that their fellow Black soldiers were part monkey or ape with tails underneath their uniforms. The purpose of this lie was to try to subvert any romantic encounters between the European females and the African-American soldiers. Likewise, they all spoke as well of the shocking racial insensitivity they encountered upon their return to the states.
Throughout all of these experiences, some good and some bad, all of these men served the United States of America proudly and deservedly have reaped in various ways the benefits given to our veterans of foreign war.
I recently heard a radio interview of George Lucas, Executive Producer, of the very soon to be released movie “Red Tails.” By all preview accounts, this is a phenomenal film about the Tuskegee Airmen. The Tuskegee Airmen were an elite squadron of African-American fighter pilots, who overcame all of the purposeful roadblocks of the military to defy all odds and become some of the best fighter pilots in the world.
Lucas spoke of the difficulties in Hollywood of executive producing this film. He has been outspoken about Hollywood’s refusal to be involved in the film “because it’s an all-black movie.” His statement on the Tom Joyner Morning Show was that he was able to get Hollywood “to make a movie about a gorilla flying a spaceship (i.e. Star Wars) but not this film.”
Now, let’s be clear about who Lucas is, he is one of America’s most successful movie men with an estimated net worth of 3.2 billion dollars. He is best known for his creation of both the Star Wars saga and Indiana Jones. Understanding the phenomena in Hollywood, Lucas self-funded the film to the tune of approximately $58M and will pay another $38M of his own money to distribute the film. Consequently, Lucas has some familiarity with the inner workings of Hollywood and how it makes money.
I believe that there is a way to prove that this fantastic depiction of American history is not lost on America. We can all take our children TO THE MOVIE THEATRE and make a collective statement about our appreciation for what this group of odds-beating, elite fighter pilots, did for this great country of ours.
The Tuskegee Airmen, my Dad, father-in-law, uncles, family friends, and others have earned and deserved this gesture. After all, they are members of “the greatest generation any society has ever produced.”
The overwhelming support of these American heroes will send a clear message that no matter what race, gender, or ethnicity; American history and spirit is about men like those who flew the Red Tails and should never be about monkey tails.
Read, learn, and share….Have a Family Meeting!
C. Randolph Keller
2012 All Rights Reserved.