He built America from the ground up with a few tools, his bare hands and by the sweat of his brow. While doing so, he was repeatedly whipped, lynched, falsely accused and castrated.
Even now, he braves America’s streets despite the fact that he is more often stopped, brutalized or shot by police, blamed for crimes he did not commit, and incarcerated at astronomical rates. He even dies earlier of natural causes than any other racial group in America – a statistic that some doctors speculate is partially due to the every day stresses of being Black.
Whether he’s wearing a necktie, a uniform, coveralls, or jeans, he braves the streets of America when he goes to work – or even to look for work. Most of the time, he makes it home. But, all too often he falls victim to this historic, undeclared war on Black males.
Still, he dares to believe in a nation where his unemployment rate exceeds all others – not just because of the economic downturn – but because of a history of race discrimination that has pressed him to rock bottom. His post traumatic stress is not from Iraq or Afghanistan, but from a lifetime of scaling the dangerous mine fields of American society.
This is about Joe Blow and John Qshon Citizen. One might call him “the average Black man”. But, given the list of daily atrocities he faces in this nation, there is actually no “average” Black man.
Rather, this is about “The Black Man – An American Hero”. Despite the odds against him, he has exceeded every bar that has ever been set. What is an “American hero”?
Traditionally, the American hero is deemed as a Super Man type, someone with exceptional courage who performs a one-time gallant deed or a long time public service that warrants celebrity and perhaps even a medal. But, for the Black man, he is a quiet American hero, unsung, even unsuspecting, deserving of respect simply for the risks he takes every day.
The family of 25-year-old Black New York police officer Omar Edwards is familiar with this gallantry as they grieve their husband and father of 18-month-old and 7-month old children. Struck down in a hail of bullets from a White police officer who mistakenly thought him to be a criminal, Omar is an American hero.
The family of 38-year-old Stephen T. Johns also knows. When this husband and father of an 11-year-old son was felled by the bullet of a hate-crazed White supremacist at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, it was yet another shot that was “heard around the world”. “Big John” – as they called him - is indeed an American Hero.
From coast to coast they have fallen. Among them, Sean Bell, 23, of New York; Oscar Grant III, 22, of San Francisco; DeAuntae “Tae Tae” Farrow, 12, of West Memphis, Ark.; and Martin Lee Anderson, 14, of Bay County, Fla. They are among the sons and fathers who were all too early struck down amidst injustice. Not to mention the thousands of Black men who have died at the hands of other Black men – a dubious “friendly fire” if you will.
Unlike other wars, there is no flag-draped casket or playing of “Taps”. Yet, the grieving hearts of loved ones are no less painful; the tears are no less real. And moreover the fortitude he displays in having to fight against the odds is no less worthy of honor.
The Black man – an American hero, we all know one as he refuses to cower. His swagger is emboldened as he defies statistics that constantly predict his demise. He daily swims upstream in the murky, unpredictable waters, daring to believe in himself and in the power of his God. Despite the memories of his fallen brothers, he presses on for respect. And on Father’s Day, we salute him for his raw courage.
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