Although America discriminated against them because they were black, on March 29, 2007, over 300 Tuskegee Airmen received the Congressional Gold Medal.
This is the most prestigious medal Congress has to offer and it was presented to these World War II combat aviators for their courageous patriotism.
The Tuskegee Airmen were formed by order of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who overruled his top generals in having black men trained to fly and combat the enemy.
These American heroes saw combat throughout Europe, the Mediterranean, and North Africa with dozens dying in battle and others captured as prisoners of war.
During a time when these men could not eat, be educated, ride the bus, or use the same restrooms as white men, they valiantly served America.
In the face of danger abroad and racism at home, they fought to defend freedom though they had not fully achieved it for themselves.
The Tuskegee Airmen are champions of liberty, honorable patriots who are most deserving of the word hero.
Other black recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal have included Marian Andersen, athletes Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, and Jackie Robinson, civil rights activists Roy Wilkens, Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, the Little Rock Nine, Rosa Parks and Dorothy Height, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
American Racism Continues
Tragically, the racism experienced by the Tuskegee Airmen remains in America.
On Thursday, June 18, I delivered my monthly remarks on policing and violence prevention to about 100 police chiefs, law enforcement officials, and community leaders for the Bergen County Police Chiefs Association in New Jersey.
I spoke about the senseless tragedy that took place the evening before at an historic South Carolina Church where a white supremacist targeted people because they were African-Americans.
Nine people were shot to death at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston while taking part in a bible study.
During my remarks, I stressed that law enforcement and community members must be fully dedicated to diversity and violence prevention, especially since even houses of worship are no longer treated as sanctuaries. This concern was also addressed in my April 10, 2015, Epoch Times column titled “Sanctuary Profaned: Protecting America’s Houses of Worship.”
Confederate Flag Controversy
The Charleston tragedy has prompted South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to ask that the Confederate flag be removed from the Statehouse grounds, something that requires the Legislature to pass a law. She said, “For many people of our state, the flag stands for traditions that are noble … at the same time, for many others in South Carolina, the flag is a deeply offensive symbol of a brutally oppressive past.”
After the Charleston church murders, the Confederate flag flew high at a memorial in front of the Statehouse, as South Carolina law requires, while even the U.S. and state flags were at half-staff.
Nothing Is Sacred
Aside from the horrific Charleston attack, other incidents paint the picture of racism in America including the following:
• Dozens of University of Oklahoma fraternity members were disciplined and two expelled during March 2015 for racist chants caught on film.
• An April 13, 2014, killing of a 14-year-old boy and his grandfather at the Jewish Community Center in Kansas City and murder later that day of a third person at a Jewish retirement community by the same killer.
• On June 8, 2014, two police officers were killed by a married white supremacist couple who previously spoke of killing law enforcement.
• On Aug. 5, 2012, six people were shot dead and four others wounded at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The killer was a white supremacist with ties to neo-Nazi groups.
Civil rights are the heartbeat of America and essential to reawakening the nation, as they express a true reverence for the dignity of each human being.
As we pray for all effected by the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church tragedy in South Carolina, let us remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “We must learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools.”
Vincent J. Bove, CPP, is a national speaker and author on issues critical to America. Bove is a recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for combating crime and violence and is a former confidant of the New York Yankees. His newest book is “Listen To Their Cries.” For more information, see www.vincentbove.com