Why are we not treated as full-fledged American citizens?

Published 12:43 am Saturday, October 12, 2019

Have we not been worthy of full-fledged citizenship? My history says, “Yes, we have been worthy!”

My father was in WWI. He joined the Army when he was 17 and was assign to the 93rd Division. The Division was shipped to France and “loaned” to the French Army. It was the only American division to serve exclusively under French command. Despite having to adjust to French methods of combat, the division’s four regiments exhibited the fighting strength of the black soldiers contrary to the belief of U.S. military hierarchy and the nation. That fighting strength surfaced in the 369th Infantry Regiment called “The Harlem Hellfighters.” The regiment served just over six months and ceded no grounds to German forces. They were the first American regiment to reach the Rhine River in Germany following the Armistice and returned to the United States national heroes. But most of the black Americans worked in service units, called Service of Supply (SOS). They dug ditches, cleaned latrines, transported supplies, cleaned debris and buried rotting corpses. They also were stevedores working on docks all over French ports.

My brother Winnie, like his Dad, also joined the U.S. Army in WWII at the age of 17, was also shipped to France and fought against the Nazis. He also was in a combat regiment that received high marks for combat performance. And just like the WWI vets, black American soldiers were characterized as rapists and the white soldiers spread vicious lies among the French civilian populations. The French people were told that black Americans were half humans, like monkeys with tails. Children were forever looking to see the tails hanging from their buttocks. These kinds of stories were told to me by my brother when he returned home.

Despite these stories, service in France constituted a remarkable experience. Black American troops often interacted with North and West African soldiers serving in the French military expanding their sense of diasporic belonging. They gained “a measure of respect from the French civilians, who, unlike, white troops of the American army, exhibited little overt racism.”

By the time I joined the service, the military had been desegregated and blacks were not openly treated as severe, unkind and callous as my dad or brother. In fact, the last all-black units in the U.S. military was abolished in September 1954. Still, it took nearly six years for the military to implement what President Harry Truman’s two executive orders (E.O. 8802 and E.O. 9981) called for: Establish equality of treatment and opportunity in the military for people of all races, religions or national origin. Most of the actual enforcement of the orders were accomplished by President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration (1953-1961), including the desegregation of military schools, hospitals, and bases.

As a result of these changes, I was sent to communications and electronic schools commensurate to my unknown abilities. It was always easy for me to solve puzzles, solve word games and figure out missing words in any given text. Though I was not a math major and hated math problems, I was able to decipher basic algorithm problems. I was being trained as a cryptanalysis and was assigned duty in sensitive areas of base operations. I was the only black person among many doing this kind of work and I was the top performer on the job. Because of that, I advanced quickly in rank. I was persuaded to leave the military and join the intel community with an equivalent rank of captain and several ‘Pseudo’ names and ranks for security.

My son joined the United States Air Force (USAF) and was eventually deployed to Mogadishu, Somalia, and participated in the battle of Mogadishu called “Operations Gothic Serpent.” He, like my father, brother and me, was wounded (spilling his blood) during his duty for this country.

My other two sons likewise have been devoted compatriots of America. My oldest son is a retired policeman for the state of Maryland, and my youngest son attending the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Both have put their lives at risk for these United States of America.

Now, my grandchildren may possibly be called to defend our country as a result of the political shenanigans being levied by the current administration. And I know that my grandchildren will, like their grandparents, answer the call. Should that occur, it will be five generations of my family potentially sacrificing their lives and yet will not have been considered ‘worthy’ of treatment as full-fledged Americans. We all know the reason for this treatment: Neo-Jim Crowism, I don’t care what Rich Lowry of the on-line Lacrosse Tribune, says.

DR. WILLIAM SCOTT is a guest columnist for The Tidewater News. He can be reached at garwhit2@charter.net.