UNITED STATES OF AMNESIA

You know, it absolutely amazes me how quickly and easily people in this country somehow seem to forget select things relative to our country’s history – especially the “not-so-good” parts of American history. It’s as if many people are living in the United States of Amnesia.

I mean, even now, folks have gone from debating whether a Black man has the freedom to kneel as a form of protest during the national anthem, to start talking about gun control again, after another act of domestic terrorism was committed this week in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Many Americans seem to have selective amnesia when it comes to a lot of things, especially when it comes to how Blacks have historically been treated in this country since its foundation.

A few weeks ago, my middle child asked me for my help with a college term paper for her U.S. History class, and she told me that she decided to write about the American Civil War and the important impact and influence that Black soldiers had on the overall outcome of the war and how they fought for their own destiny, while fighting for a country that overwhelmingly didn’t embrace them as equal citizens. Interesting choice of topic…I know! So now since we are successfully in student-mode, I want to give all of you a little homework assignment. I mean, that’s if you’re truly up to learning something. The reason I say that is because a lot of folks are so caught up on trying to justify their flawed logic surrounding many of the major issues that have been impacting Black people for years, that it becomes routinely frustrating for many and it can really make your head spin.

So let’s get to it. Are any of you familiar with the Double V Campaign? If not, don’t worry because you already know I’m about to share some things about it with you, right?

Anyway…the Double V Campaign was became a major movement in 1942, as it was spearheaded by one of the most influential Black newspapers during that time – the Pittsburgh Courier. The Pittsburgh Courier had the boldness to demand that integration be embraced by America, during a time when our courageous Black soldiers risked their lives to fight for someone else’s freedom on foreign soil. The Courier emphasized in a front page article, the following:

“We, as colored Americans are determined to protect our country, our form of government and the freedoms which we cherish for ourselves and the rest of the world, therefore we have adopted the Double ‘V’ war cry—victory over our enemies at home and victory over our enemies on the battlefields abroad. Thus in our fight for freedom, we wage a two-pronged attack against our enslavers at home and those abroad who will enslave us. WE HAVE A STAKE IN THIS FIGHT…WE ARE AMERICANS, TOO!”

Isn’t that powerful? And to think that this appeared on the front page of a Black newspaper during the early 1940s is even more powerful to me.

Can you imagine the backlash? Envision the vitriol, threats and repercussions the Pittsburgh Courier, and Blacks as a whole, had to deal with because of this bold stance?

How dare a Black newspaper demand that other Americans embrace integration in America? How dare Black people stand up and fight for their own justice and equality? How dare Black people challenge their fellow Americans to listen to the demands they had regarding the injustices they were experiencing in America, especially during a time when all of those brave and courageous Black soldiers decided to put their lives on the line for someone else’s freedom on foreign soil, while having limited freedom themselves? Sound familiar to you? Sound like something we are witnessing and experiencing today? Yes!

Now let me talk about the Double V Campaign just a tad bit more, if you don’t mind.

In the PBS film, “The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords”, the narrator shares how James Thompson, a Black cafeteria worker from Wichita, Kansas, suggested in a letter to the Pittsburgh Courier that African Americans should use the war overseas to press for change in their own backyard. In the film, a voiceover of Thompson states, “Should I sacrifice my life to live half-American? Will things be better for the next generation in the peace to follow? Let my colored Americans adopt the Double V for the double victory. The first V for victory over our enemies from without. The second V for victory over our enemies from within.”

The Pittsburgh Courier and other members of the Black press got behind this suggestion and orchestrated the Double V Campaign.

Now, get this! The Double V Campaign was so effective, that in 1942, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover (one of the most evil men to hold a position in the U.S. federal government) presented U.S. Attorney General Francis Biddle with several lengthy reports on what he saw as “seditious activity” by the Black press, so much so, that he literally asked Attorney General Biddle to indict an entire group of Black publishers for the crime of treason.

Did you hear me right? Yes I said…treason!!!

That’s why I’m trying to tell anyone who may be suffering from selective amnesia, that this ain’t nothing new. We’ve been down this road, dealing with many of the same circumstances where select people in this country, even those who hold high office in our government, have sought to silence the voice of African Americans by creating false narratives; deeming their actions as unpatriotic, seditious, un-American, disrespectful, lawless and inconsiderate. It’s the exact same way they are treating Colin Kaepernick right now, along with anyone else who has chosen to exercise their First Amendment right to protest and demand justice for Black people in this country.

Don’t argue with me…look at our history – past and present.

In response to the threats made by the federal government, John Sengstacke, publisher of the Chicago Defender, had a meeting with Attorney General Biddle where Sengstacke boldly told him, “What are we supposed to do about it? These are facts and we aren’t gonna stop. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what the Black press is all about, protecting Blacks in this country.”

I want to reiterate an important point. The federal government tried to censor the Black press and Black people, and stop them from protesting and making demands for freedom and equality…similar to what we are seeing in America today with Kaepernick and others.

Same thing…different day and time.

Now, would everyone agree that those Black soldiers were extremely brave and patriotic Americans who earned the right to be heard and respected, especially after they decided to put their lives on the line for the freedom of others, including every American citizen?

Well, if your answer is “Yes”, can somebody please tell me why these brave and courageous Black soldiers were discriminated against back home and while they were sacrificially serving in our American military abroad? Look…regardless of how you answer or what you believe, know that the issues concerning African Americans in this country today are strikingly comparable to the days of the Double V Campaign, which is why I refuse to allow any false narratives to gain steam and become the gospel in ways that seek to vilify any of these movements or efforts to improve the conditions of Blacks in this country. Not on my watch!

They did it to our Civil Right leaders, the Civil Rights movement, the Black Panther Party, many of our sports figures and entertainers, and now they are trying to do it to the Black Lives Matter Movement, Colin Kaepernick, modern-day Black activists and many more. So as I continue on my quest to seek justice, with and for my people, I don’t mind calling people out and reminding them about our American history, while simultaneously asking those who seek to avoid the topic or create a false narrative whether they plan to do something real about addressing our demands for justice or will they choose to continue living in the United States of Amnesia.

Jeffrey L. Boney serves as Associate Editor and is an award-winning journalist for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. Jeffrey has been a frequent contributor on the Nancy Grace Show and Primetime Justice with Ashleigh Banfield. Jeffrey has a national daily radio talk show called Real Talk with Jeffrey L. Boney, and is a dynamic, international speaker, experienced entrepreneur, business development strategist and Founder/CEO of the Texas Business Alliance. If you would like to request Jeffrey as a speaker, you can reach him at jboney1@forwardtimes.com.