As the world comes together to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Normandy invasion, I have to ask myself where were all the African American soldiers during the war. Watching the news concerning the anniversary of D-day, you would think that African American men were not present in France during this time. But this is simply not true because they were there. Nearly 2,000 black troops were there fighting for a country that barely recognized their humanness.
I wish I could say they were at least there fighting alongside whites but they weren’t. They were marginalized, humiliated and even treated with more contempt than Nazi prisoners. They were denied food and access to amenities that other soldiers had. But this is not the worst of all. My stepfather tells me that upon returning home after the war and people came out to celebrate with the troops that risked their lives, blacks were withheld from the celebration. They were told to stay on the ships, stay in their place and hours passed before they themselves were able to exit.
Seventy years have passed. The army has since desegregated as the rest of our society. Monumental civil rights legislation has passed ensuring that blacks have a place in this country, mind you, a country that we have helped build. Even so, as I look at the news today, I do not see the faces of black men who were there, black men who contributed. And I wonder how these troops who were not counted in the original celebration must feel to still be discounted today.
The history books will never tell us the sacrifices that our black fathers and grandfathers made. The news outlets will never report the victories our people secured or how our ancestors helped win this war. But they did. Every single day that they were there they risked their all, laid down their lives and fought valiantly for a country that wasn’t their’s, for a country that still isn’t ours no matter how much we prove we deserve to be included.
Today I honor our fathers and our grandfathers who not only fought for this country, but fought to make a name for ourselves. Today I honor the black men and women, who since our nation’s founding, sacrificed their all just to earn the right to be called an American. I invite you to do the same.