For You Who Despair of Democracy, You Do Not Understand the Impossible.
Many people are now commenting that we have fallen into autocracy. That after the seeming failure of the impeachment process to remove a corrupt rogue assisted by a sly enabler in the Senate chamber that all is somehow lost. It is not.
Within my own family I have the historical record to tell you that this fight is only barely begun. And because it is Black history month, I will tell you some Black history — mine. Or at least mine and my family’s.
My own father, who served as a Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, returned from the war to build his family in Saint Paul, Minnesota when the poliomyelitis epidemic came swinging through the early Fifties. It struck him (as well as my future father-in-law) when he like many young folks were in the prime of life — placing him in an iron lung. My mother was informed that he would not survive; then that he would be paralyzed; then that he must remain in a wheelchair; and finally that he would not walk. But, of course, he did walk. He and other other men like my father-in-law survived that test.
It was only after my father’s death that I was to learn that in 1957 a young preacher traveled to Minnesota seeking the support of local civic and religious leaders for his movement in Montgomery, Alabama. And my father was there. My father had spent much of his wartime in the South as the adjutant of the Moton Field Tuskegee Air Base. Black men of his generation had served stateside and in battle overseas — only to return home and see the “whites only” signs still in place. Their wartime service was not only the catalyst for a Movement, but it was the training and discipline for a longer battle. It was the instruction on doing the impossible.
Just as the Tuskegee airmen had been told they could never learn to fly, so Black Americans were told (are still told) they cannot fully participate in America. This was the lie their service exposed.
The lie was exposed by every pioneer who knew that the end of battles cannot be predicted. But, it was their job not meet a timetable for freedom, but to meet the impossible obstacles along that road however long it might take.
This battle to get democracy back on the rails is far from ended. It has only just begun.
If you do not believe me, ask Frederick Douglass. Ask Harriet Tubman. Ask A. Philip Randolph. Ask W.E.B. Dubois. Ask Walter White. Ask Ralph Johnson Bunche. Ask Shirley Chisholm. Ask Bayard Rustin. Ask Spottswood W. Robinson. Ask E.D. Nixon. Ask Thurgood Marshall. Ask Martin L. King. Ask my father. And my mother. And my grandparents.
No one in battle can ever know how long it will take to win. They just know that they must learn to do the impossible.
-Albert Turner Goins