Sarah Palin is just wrong.
She may be popular and no doubt, she voices the sentiments of her base, but when it comes to her thoughts on black people and patriotism, she is wrong.
Ms. Palin makes an observation in her newest book that African Americans are not patriotic and that they should just shut up and get with the program. I am paraphrasing, but the gist of her opinion is clear. She believes that racism is a non-entity, a buzz word used by a group of people who just don’t have the desire to be real Americans.
Really, Sarah? Have you read any history at all?
In her book, “The Grace of Silence,” National Public Radio reporter and author Michele Norris recounts the story of Isaac Woodard, an African American who served in the Second Worl War. Woodard, 27, had returned home after serving 15 months in the South Pacific. He was on his way home to meet his family in South Carolina after being discharged from Camp Gordon in Georgia.
He was on a bus, and at a scheduled restroom stop, Woodard, still wearing his uniform, reportedly told the bus driver that he needed more time. The bus driver became annoyed and told Woodard to shut up and sit down. Woodard responded, something black people were NOT supposed to do, no matter how they were talked to by white people. He said to the bus driver to “talk to me like I’m talking to you. I’m a man, just like you.”
Well, that angered the bus driver, who called police. When the bus made its next stop, it was met by police officers who confronted Woodard as he got off the bus. They reportedly took him to an alley and beat him mercilessly. One officers beat him over the head with his “billy,” and eventually took that billy and punched him in the eyes, over and over, eventually taking the billy and poking it in the soldier’s eyes. This officer later said that Woodard had been drinking and had advanced on him, something that could not be corroborated. He later said he “might have stuck” his finger in Woodard’s eye.
A “billy” says Norris, was a nightstick loaded with lead pellets.
Woodard woke up in jail, unable to see. His injuries were so horrific that another soldier prisoner wanted his eyes bequeathed to the young veteran once he died, but a doctor examining Woodard said that a transplant would be impossible: “Woodard’s eyeballs were pulverized,” this doctor’s report said. There was no possibility of the soldier regaining his sight by a corneal transplant.
The report of the attack on Woodard was widely reported, angering radio personality, writer and actor Orson Welles so much that he went on a personal vendetta to make sure the offending officer was brought to justice. Welles was eventually accused of being anti American and fled the country to escape being questioned by the House Un-American Activities Committee. The offending officer was brought to trial, but was of course found innocent of all charges. Norris notes that Woodard “wept openly through what remained of his shattered eyes.”
The truth is, Ms. Palin, that from the time of the Revolutionary War, African Americans have yearned to fight for this country. They too often believed that serving in the military would prove their obeisance to America and perhaps soften America’s white supremacists to let them live as full citizens. That proved not to be the case; African Americans were first not allowed to serve in the military, and then later allowed to serve but not as combat soldiers, but rather as cooks and servants. Nonetheless, African Americans continued to sign up and they lived on the hope that their service would make America see them as people of worth and not objects of scorn.
Yet, when they returned home, they faced, again, the wrath and hatred of American whites. They were shuffled back into the waiting arms of racism, denied loans to buy homes, the right to live wherever they wanted, and dignity for their children, service notwithstanding.
Woodard’s story was only one of many. United States Attorney General Eric Holder’s dad, who had fought for the United States, had to “stand for hours during his train ride home while German prisoners of war, all white, sat comfortably in cushioned seats,” Norris notes. Army veteran Etov Fletcher was beaten severely after he tried to register to vote. Another African American veteran and his wife, along with another African American couple, were reportedly shot down by a group of white men in a secluded wooded area. Reports said that at least 60 bullets had been loaded into these people.
Marine veteran Timothy Hood was shot in the head by a police officer and killed because he moved a segregation sign on a streetcar and refused to stop when ordered.
In spite of horrid treatment in this country, African Americans continued to sign up for military service. They served because they loved this country and wanted so badly to be regarded as human beings and not chattel. No matter how hard they fought, though, it was never enough to erase racism. The Woodard case was reportedly the case that moved President Truman to order the military to integrate.
Judging by the ignorant and insensitive statements made by Ms. Palin, I guess she didn’t know any of that. Her statements wreak not only of ignorance but of arrogance and insensitivity.
Sarah Palin is a force, but I am afraid that she is a force of the disease called American racism, and I believe her base resonates with her message because they feel the same about race. I would suggest that she read some history because unfortunately, this country is not just made up of white women from Alaska who wear lipstick.
No, Sarah Palin, this country includes brave men and women of color who fought and died for this country in spite of being treated like disposable paper plates by people like you.
And that is a candid observation.