There is a moment in the movie Red Tails, about the Tuskegee Airmen, that fits what happened in 2008 and everything that has happened since perfectly
The movie starts with the assessment:
“Blacks are mentally inferior, by nature subservient, and cowards in the face of danger.
They are therefore unfit for combat. ”
1925 U.S. Army War College Study
It is about the Tuskegee Airmen who were heroes in WWII. Red Tails is about the only war movie that I have ever been able to watch and it enthralled me. I highly recommend it and for those who like me are not huge war movie fans its not hard to watch. These men battled against the Germans but their largest battle was against prejudice and hatred from other men in their own country.
I watched this and the movie Game Change at about the same time. Game Change is on the Obama/McCain race from the McCain perspective. It’s about the Palin fiasco but there is another message there. Let me start by saying that I used to respect John McCain, the Senator, I will never impugn the man who fought for the country, but the man, the Senator, he used to be was a man who you thought had possibility. That was the man in 2000 not the man in 2008 who became willing to do anything to be President.
Back to Red Tails, the pilots in the movie read a newspaper article:
“The use of negroes in the Army Air Corp may yet be halted. A report has been forwarded calling the performance by negro pilots unsatisfactory. A plan to assign the negroes to routine convoy cover may be all that remains for those who seem to have neither the intelligence nor the proper reflexes for such a complicated task as fighter pursuit. The great Tuskegee experiment to allow the Negro type to fly airplanes has failed.”
The pilots are less than happy with this reporting as their commanding officer says:
“and you all thought what, you’d sign up, you’d get shiny boots, a uniform and that’d be the end of a hundred years of bigotry? You’re colored men in a white man’s army. It’s a miracle you’re flying fighters in Italy and not mopping latrines in Milwaukee.”
They know their senior officer is back in the states fighting to keep the program going. They are reminded that they are fighter pilots
Switch to the Pentagon, one black officer is meeting with senior officials about the program. He is reminding them that when the program started they did not think that they would:
“find Negroes who could pass a pilot’s exam, make it through flight school, survive basic combat.” and they have done all of that.
The white officer demeans the men because they have not scored any fighter kills, and then points to newspaper reports about poor discipline. They are having enough problems with race relations.
There is one white officer who is championing the Negro pilots. The “experiment” is going to be called off but the black officer will not “go away because they have a right to fight for their country just like every other man”. They end with another experiment and the guidance that “Politics is the art of postponing a decision until it is no longer relevant.
The white officer who is willing to help the Negro men gets them a mission, they get to go into a real fight and they succeed brilliantly, beyond all possible expectations for any men. Back in the Pentagon even the white officers have to recognize that it was a success.
The officer who is most strikingly against the “Tuskegee experiment” says the following:
“Eight German fighters or eighty it still doesn’t change what I think of you and your boys.”
The response “We don’t care.
The bigoted senior officer “Respect the Uniform”
The response “Believe me, sir, that is all I have respect for.” Officer scowls mightily.
The movie continues and the Tuskegee airmen become one of the most decorated units in the war.
Why does any of this matter. I watched the two movies and what I saw was John McCain realize that he was losing to a black man. He was outmaneuvered, out debated, out organized. A population that was invigorated by a historic race. An incredible black man was running against an amazing woman. A nation was ready for hope and change, for a new direction. John McCain could not believe it was happening. He tried picking his own female running mate, someone that didn’t support his more moderate inclinations and in the hope of winning big he veered sharply to the right. In the midst of crisis, he tried to show he was superior, and he failed. He lost and the first African American President was elected, it was historic, and like the officer described above John McCain was not going to change his opinion. That black man, that negro, was not going to be better, do better, than he could. His entire party was with him – they declared on day one that they were going to do everything they could do to make him fail, to make him a one term president, and they tried. Despite that, despite losses in the mid-terms, despite a do nothing congress, despite a hostile media President Obama has succeeded.
President Obama tried everything, he tried compromise – they wouldn’t do it. The Republicans would make deals then break them. The President offered them what they wanted and they said no. They would say this was the way things have to go and he would agree and do it and they would say that was the wrong thing. Literally nothing that he did was given credit. They belittled him to the world and they thought they could win. Instead the President won victory after victory. He restored America’s standing in the world and they said we were less well respected. There isn’t a thing that he can do that they will give a positive voice to. Listen to McCain, listen to them all it’s the same – eight fighters or eighty it still doesn’t change what I will think about you I want to scream and tell John McCain and the rest of them to look at what is really happening. We are succeeding and we would be doing even better if they would help rather than protest.
Lies have become so common that they are hard to distinguish from the truth. President Obama has persevered, and he reminds them of it – I was elected, TWICE and he became *ucket Obama – he was going to move us forward despite the naysayers, despite the obstruction. He knows that history will show how he has succeeded and he knows that most of us know this it too.
We all know that it is about the President and the color of his skin. There is still a segment of this country that doesn’t think that people that are not white and yes male are as good, are as capable, are shall I say, qualified.
Racism exists, sexism exists, it is still live and active and it is so hard to call it out because if you do you are asking for something somehow more. If we don’t recognize it, if we don’t call it out then it persists. We need to stop and recognize what it is we are doing. Today, when the media says in one breath that yes, Hillary Clinton, is held to a higher standard and in the next they call her out and call her weaker and lesser and that is sexism and needs to stop.
President Obama did not want special treatment, Hillary Clinton does not want special treatment, both are used to being better. All I want is for us to recognize that and to let them be equal. It doesn’t diminish a white male to let a black man, or woman stand equally beside them. They don’t lose anything. They gain some very talented people. Watch Red Tails, read about the Tuskegee Airmen, and tell me that they shouldn’t be able to stand equal, that we aren’t better off for having them. Maybe someday John McCain will realize that too.