01 Feb 2002 Heroes are Heroes, Regardless of Color, by R.D. Davis
Shortly after Osama bin Laden’s terrorists attacked New York City, the photograph of three firemen raising an American flag in patriotic defiance burned an indelible image in my psyche.
I saw three proud Americans engaging in spontaneous and heart-wrenching act of remembrance for those who were cowardly murdered as well as to the firemen, police officers and other rescue workers who died a heroic death trying to save the lives of others. I vicariously felt the emotions those men must have felt exuding from the portrait.
I only saw Americans demonstrating an untiring and indomitable pride in their country. They showed the best in America, even at “ground zero” of the worst act of war ever inflicted upon our nation from abroad. It was touching and captivating – and deserving of enshrining in a statue.
But such a thing has already been destroyed by “political correctness.”
Was I too color-blind? Those who saw three white men felt any memorializing of the photo needed more color. They apparently did not see Americans, mind you, but only white men. Silly me. I saw only Americans.
It used to be that liberals didn’t want things to hinge on a person’s race. But, in a throwback to the Marxist technique of re-writing history, which was common in the old Soviet Union, the identities of two of those 9/11 firemen were almost erased because they were white. When a statue based on the photograph was proposed, these individials wanted the firemen in it depicted as one white, one black and one Hispanic.
What is wrong with a statue of the actual three magnificent firemen whom, regardless of their race, represented all Americans? After America came together in the wake of the atrocious events of 9/11, the time was right to finally begin putting race behind us. It could have been perfect.
Au contraire. The social engineering that is “political correctness” reared its proverbial ugly head. The decision to change history in the statue came from the statue’s designer, New York City Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta and the Forest City Ratner Companies that owns the land where the statue was to be placed. Fire Department spokesman Frank Gribbon explained the new version of history would more accurately reflect all of the firemen who died that day.
Why couldn’t race-conscious liberals just let Americans represent Americans? After all, an all-black Olympic basketball team ably represented America in another arena. Besides, if they really wanted a statue that accurately reflected the racial composition of the New York City firemen who died on 9/11, they would have to show 33 firemen raising the flag with only one Hispanic and one black. Blacks make up only 2.7% of the department, and Hispanics only 3.2%.
As a result of the outcry over changing the races, the statue idea was shelved. Political correctness killed it.
Why are we concerned about the racial make-up of the firemen at the expense of the truth? Even if the firemen who hoisted the flag were black or Hispanic, the statue should have depicted what actually happened. Shouldn’t race be irrelevant?
All of this reeks of George Orwell’s book 1984, where a totalitarian government – a corrupted form of socialism – conveniently erases or revises history to maintain a politically-repressive society. What is blatantly ironic is that the same people who claim to be dedicated to improving race relations are the very ones who appear to go out of their way to turn everything in our society into racial issues. Might it really be on purpose?
As a nation, we should strive – as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned – toward a color-blind America if our goal really is to improve race relations. In this case, if truth is to prevail, the color of the actual men depicted in the statues should really be the last thing on our minds.
In memory of 9/11, let us honor those heroes and victims by not thinking of them as members of different races but as Americans.
(R.D. Davis is a member of the African-American leadership network Project 21 and a writer and radio talk show host in Huntsville, Alabama. He can be reached at [email protected].)
Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.