Social media is a cesspool of bad communication too often amplified by feelings, anger, and lack of knowledge.
As I write this I have taken some time to ruminate on a Facebook post that was shared on June 6, 2020. I hope the truth of June 6, 1944 is still taught in history classes from elementary to graduate school. June 6th is the fateful day in 1944 when the allies came ashore on the beaches of Normandy, (Juno, Sword, Gold, Utah, and Omaha) with the intent of removing a blight on the continent of Europe and all of humanity.
This year on June 6th, the 76th anniversary of that day we are engaged in a struggle for the survival of our national conscience. The murder of Mr. George Floyd has proven to be a tipping point for many. It’s about time. Imagine the combination of two great evils, National Socialism and Racism. I can imagine it because I witnessed the clash in a single photograph with a caption.
The photograph was of bodies of dead soldiers on a beach (not certain it was any of the Normandy beaches, but it was posted on June 6th) and the caption was, “A whole lot of White Privilege going on here.” It is quite shocking to see the bodies of soldiers used to support a racist perspective, but there it was. How is it that I can call the caption of this photograph racist? To qualify myself; I’m a white guy, I grew up around white guys, I’m not ignorant – I understand tone and intent. The purpose behind this post was to highlight the terrible sacrifice white people have made for everyone else. We’ve done the hard work of making the world free for you. How can you not appreciate all that we have done? How do you now sling the invective White Privilege [like that’s even a thing – (indignant tone implied)] at us without saying thank you?
Ignorance is a terrible thing. Ignorance when used to support racism is horrible and so destructive to all of us. The very idea that only white soldiers died during the landings at Normandy is patently and completely ignorant, and more than a tiny bit – RACIST.
The majority of the U.S. forces participating in the invasion were white. This had much to do with the policies of the U.S. Government, a government predominately controlled and administered by white people. The Army was not integrated and had units and “colored” units. The colored units with the exception of one combat division were generally not structured to be front line (combat) units.
Colored units were, by design, not in a position to storm the beach as they were typically relegated to Service and Supply units by the white hierarchy of the Army. One notable exception is the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion a service unit with a combat mission. The 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion was unique at Normandy for two reasons. First, it was the only American barrage balloon unit in France and second, it was the first black unit in the segregated American Army to come ashore on D-Day. Five battalion medics were the first to land on Omaha Beach at approximately 9 a.m. A wounded medic, Waverly B. Woodson Jr., was nominated for the Medal of Honor, though he never received it. Mr. Woodson treated any wounded soldier he encountered, not just colored troops. https://www.history.com/news/d-day-hero-medal-of-honor-waverly-woodson
It is very important to recognize the reality these men faced in coming to serve in the Army of the United States. The era of Jim Crow and it’s arbitrary and made up laws designed to dehumanize was in full effect. Because of White Privilege, colored troops (black lives) were not treated as “full Americans” by the system (hmm, systemic racism?) and a vast majority of Americans. In other words, colored troops (black lives) could serve the country to defend the rights of our citizenry, but were not afforded the rights of full citizenship.
To sarcastically paraphrase the quote of the image that started my thoughts on this, “There’s a whole lot of White Privilege going on there.” Wait, what?
Some time back the United Negro College Fund used a tag line in their advertising, “The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste.” Clearly they are right. And, to the individual who created the post that decried the terrible cost of white lives, the result of a system of White Privilege, thank you for proving the point. Ignorance is ugly and when it is the root of your thoughts on others it is an affront to God and basic human decency.
Social media is a cesspool of bad communication too often amplified by feelings, anger, and lack of knowledge. Don’t be that guy.