Point of View Columns

The Greatest Generation – A Point of Personal Privilege

As the New Year begins, I am reminded that my father, Wallace Ford Sr., was born on January 2, 1922. Had he lived past his 73rd year, he would be 97 years old. He was one of the unheralded members of the so-called Greatest Generation. And the word “so-called” is used intentionally because of the virtually monochromatic description of that generation employed by Tom Brokaw and so many others who purposefully and intentionally chose to ignore the black men and women who were in many ways the reason that Generation was great.

My father’s parents left North Carolina as teenagers to seek the very obvious better opportunity in New York than in a state where the Ku Klux Klan and lynching and Jim Crow oppression was simply a way of life. And the parents of the brothers and sisters of my father’s generation also journeyed to Chicago, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh and anyplace but the former Confederate states. And my father and his generational brothers and sisters did not simply endure the ubiquitous discrimination and prejudice outside and within the South, they prevailed.

The almost (but not) forgotten black members of the Greatest Generation went into the military and made history as they helped America win World War II. Their sisters went to work in shops and stores and factories and changed the face of the American workforce. And in the times after the Great Depression and World War II at Tuskegee and Montford Point and so many other places that are hidden in the shadows of history, they made a way for themselves even though the racism in America’s DNA did not surrender opportunity easily. And in making a way in this brave new world they endorsed and supported and joined the next phase of the civil rights movement that had begun one hundred years earlier. And in revealing the determination and persistence and sheer will of their fathers and grandmothers and ancestors, they were able to see the obvious signs of prejudice fade and in some ways, disappear. And all this while their little girls and boys were cursed and spat upon for daring to go to grade school. And all this while their icons and heroes and heroines were killed before their very eyes. And all this while the likes of Faubus and Wallace and Stennis and Bilbo paraded their hate in full view of the world.

And these black members of the Greatest Generation also raised a generation of sons and daughters who were taught and trained and encouraged to seize opportunities that never existed. These sons and daughters went to colleges and universities. These sons and daughters became lawyers and bankers and doctors and entrepreneurs and governors and mayors – and most importantly they became mothers and fathers determined to fulfill the dreams of all who came before and those who would come after.

Those dreams have yet to be totally fulfilled. They continue the battle, they continue to struggle and they struggle to make the dreams of that Greatest Generation come true.

And as this New Year begins it is important to keep those dreams alive and to remember as it was for the Greatest Generation, it is true for us – dreams can come true.

Happy Birthday Dad.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – September 2, 2011

Congressman Andre Carson raised eyebrows by raising the curtain on the Tea Party and pointing out the clear and present racist tinge to this Astroturf movement. After all, if it walks like a duck……. While millions of Americans recover from the fear and pain and frustration of an earthquake and a hurricane, Saint Michele Bachman proclaims these calamities an act of God and then says she was just joking. And all the while Magical Mitt Romney busily oversees the $12 million expansion of his West Coast home while making sure to let the rest of us know that we will have to endure financial pain and sacrifice.

If It Walks Like a Duck………

I must applaud Representative Andre Carson for having the audacity to finally say publicly what many black Americans have felt for a long time – there is an undeniable racist odor about the Tea Party. Speaking about the G.O.Tea Party Representative Carson said, “some of them would love to see us as second-class citizens” and “some of them in Congress right now of this tea party movement would love to see you and me … hanging on a tree.”

Predictably, the Teapublicans and their fake grass roots, Koch-sponsored “movement” yelped like scalded cats. Yet I wonder if you could find even a respectable minority of Tea Party zealots who believe that it is offensive to fly the Confederate flag at public events. Ask the current G.O.Tea Party presidential herd of candidates if they believe that there was anything oddly offensive about the two year questioning of the citizenship of President Obama.

What about the gross caricatures of the president that resembled the images from posters advertising minstrel shows? And what about the Tea Party battle cry of “Taking America Back……..”….from whom?”

And speaking of taking America back, there is a strain of nostalgia in the Tea Party rhetoric that romanticizes a simpler, better time in America. The problem is that in that simpler, better time, America’s so-called Greatest Generation did indeed hang black Americans from trees, relegated black Americans to the back of the bus, the back of the movie theater and to the back of the country. In that simpler, better time the pain and tragedy of American racism was a daily part of life for millions of black men, women and children.

There is certainly a bizarro political philosophy that is a part of the Tea Party strategy – a kind of states’ rights, libertarian, but leave my benefits alone – approach to government. But there is also a slimy, sleazy racist aspect which empowers the unprecedented insults and disrespect directed at this president. And it is this mindless hate for Barack Obama that propelled this country perilously close to a credit default that would have wrecked the global economy.

To Representative Carson goes the Point of View Honest Man of the Week Award. The Point of View Honest Woman of the Week Award goes to Congresswoman Maxine Waters who said, “The Tea Party can just go to hell!”

Just Joking?

Michele Bachmann has told anyone who listens, or doesn’t listen, that she makes all major decisions in her life based upon what God tells her to do. That is how she chose law school and her husband and it was God who told her to run for president.

So it was with some interest that we heard her exclaim that the recent earthquake and hurricane that affected the lives of approximately sixty million Americans was an “act of God”, retribution for the budget and debt policies of the federal government. I was immediately reminded of Pat Robertson’s proclamation that Hurricane Katrina and the devastation visited upon New Orleans and the Gulf states was God’s punishment for national abortion policies.

Clearly God chooses zealots as His messengers, and Michele Bachmann is no exception. Except…..there is a certain callous heartlessness in proclaiming that the death of 43 men, women and children and the destruction of over $12 billion of homes and businesses is God’s work – where is her expression of Christian charity in the face of God’s disaster?

And then St. Michele said that she was just “joking”. So we are led to the conclusion that, in the G.O.Tea Party bizarro world, the death of innocents and the devastation of communities is suitable material for humor. What a funny gal!

Mitt the Builder

While hurricanes blow, earthquakes tremble and forest fires burn Magical Mitt Romney has been busily expanding his West Coast home to the tune of $12 million. As a mega multimillionaire, Mr. Romney certainly has the resources to build a dozen such homes all over America.

Perhaps this is part of his personal stimulus strategy – getting millionaires and billionaires, whose fortunes are safeguarded by the no-tax G.O.Tea Party, to build summer homes, condominium towers, super cottages and McMansions all over the country.

Presumably this will offset the pain of the fiscal austerity that Mitt Romney preaches, pain that will never get past the gates of his mansions and those of his fellow millionaires and billionaires.

Happy Labor Day and have a great weekend!