The Unspoken Truth: Their Lives Matter: Honoring Our Unknown Heroes

“It’s important for us to also understand that the phase ‘Black Lives Matter’ simply refers to the notion that there’s a specific vulnerability for African Americans that needs to be addressed. It’s not meant to suggest that other lives don’t matter.  It’s to suggest that other folks aren’t experiencing this particular vulnerability.”

– Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, Nobel Peace Prize Winner

“I swear to the Lord I still can’t see why democracy means everybody but me.” 

– Langston Hughes, Writer/Poet

“We all have dreams. In order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort.”

– Jesse Owens, World Record Setting Olympic Athlete

“We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers. Our abundance has brought us neither peace of mind nor serenity of spirit.” 

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Pastor, Civil Rights Activist

“Defining myself, as opposed to being defined by others, is one of the most difficult challenges I face.”

– Carol Moseley-Braun, former US Senator from Illinois, 1st African American Woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate (1992)

“The hate you give is the pain we live.”

– Dr. Micheal Kane, Clinical Traumatologist

My Dear Readers,

It is my deepest pleasure that I once again return to writing. It is also with great sadness that I extend my condolences to the families of the 470,705 Americans and the families of the over 2 million people from around the world who have lost their lives to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

I sincerely apologize for not posting a new blog for the past several months. As much as I enjoy writing, my number one priority has been and will always be to the psychological care and mental wellness of my patients. My patient calendar has been stretched to its limits. My clinical practice has grown to an average of 45-55 patients per week, more than double the 20-25 patients that other private clinical practices may treat in the same amount of time, so I had to temporarily step away.

Today, the African American community faces not only the devastation due to COVID-19 but also the cumulative traumas of systemic racism and ongoing psychological impacts because of societal issues such as police brutality, judicial abuse, and mass incarceration.

In addition to the pandemic, the nation has been psychologically stunned by the January 06, 2021 breaching of the US Capitol Building by a mob of predominantly white insurrectionists who sought to overturn the lawful election of the 46th President of the United States. These treasonous actions resulted in vandalism, theft, destruction, and desecration of the halls of Congress. These people spread urine and feces on the walls and floors in the seat of power of the United States of America, the country they claimed to love.  

However, as a treating clinician, the greatest psychological impact that I have been asked to respond to has come from my African American patients: the sight of the confederate battle flag being waved in the House of Democracy. In the same house where, on January 1, 1863, Congress ratified the Emancipation Proclamation declaring “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free”.

I listen to the repeated words of my patients as they watched the Capitol Hill police officers treat the insurrectionists with kid gloves, taking selfies and allowing the hundreds if not thousands involved to simply walk away and return quietly to their homes, work, and communities. It was traumatizing, plain and simple.

In the end, five people had been killed including one officer, and many more police had been seriously injured. Property had been destroyed, hundreds had trespassed and physical assaulted government employees, domestic terrorist, insurrectionists had threatened and planned to take the lives of elected officials to the point where they were armed, carrying zip ties, and had constructed gallows to execute the Vice President of the United States and they were simply allowed to walk away. They were allowed to walk away while black men and women get executed for selling cigarettes, jogging, or simply fitting a description.

As I return to writing and thinking about how black Americans have been treated in this country, I am reminded of a picture I once saw. It was of a black soldier who had just returned from battle. He was exhausted, sitting on a stump holding his rifle. His back was whip-scarred, physical evidence of a life lived as a former slave. The picture was captioned “We’ve Loved America More Than It Ever Loved Us.”  These words are ever so painful and …ever so true.

(The picture was a composite image that combined art from the cover of issue # 6 of the Loveless graphic novel drawn by Marcelo Frusin and an interpretation of a quote from “Doc” Rivers, former NBA player and the current head coach of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers.)

‘I don’t want a Black History Month. Black History is American history.”

– Morgan Freeman, Actor, Academy Award Winner (2005)

I agree with Morgan Freeman. Black history is American history, but I do feel that Black History Month is necessary. The reason why we have a Black History Month is to counteract the intentional actions of white historians using racist systems and ideologies to deny the accurate telling of African American history and allow it to be truthfully and honestly explored.

Ignorance is simply the lack of knowledge. Whether it is willful, intentional, or unintentional, the impact and outcome on a people when their community is denied the truth is psychologically devasting. Even though African American history is American history, it has been denied its rightful place in antiquity. African American history, its teachings, information, and knowledge has been relegated to the 28-day month of February and once March 1st arrives, African American History disappears until the following year.

“Hate is too great a burden to bear.  It injures the hater more than it injures the hated.”

– Coretta Scott King, Civil Rights Activist

I was born in Harlem, NY but my developmental years were spent in the segregated south. As much as I admire Coretta Scott King, I must disagree with her conclusion that hate is more impactful on the “hater” than on the “hated”. I agree that “hate is too great a burden to bear” but for me personally and professionally, the destruction, devastation, the psychological effects, and the trauma that hate creates for the “hated” far outweighs the burden it supposedly imposes on the “hater”.

The “hater” can ignore, minimize and justify their actions. As we have seen so many times, this allows them to eventually forget what they have done leaving their actions unknown by future generations. 

I recently wrote in LinkedIn about a story of a black Coastguardsman, Charles Walter David, Jr. who served as a mess attendant aboard the Coast Guard cutter USCG Comanche during WWII.  At the time, the Coast Guard was segregated and the only occupations available for black men were menial work in ship kitchens or maintaining the officers’ quarters.

At 12:55 a.m. on February 3, 1943, while the USCG Comanche was escorting three transport ships off the coast of Greenland, one of the transport ships, the USAT Dorchester, was torpedoed by a German submarine. Nine-hundred men were forced into the frigid waters. Witnessing the crisis, David and several other men voluntarily climbed down into the lifeboats where they helped lift their fellow service men up onto the Comanche’s deck. Even though David was one of the lowest ranking men on his ship and his shipmates and country considered him to be a second-class citizen, he willingly put his life at risk to save fellow Americans.

When the Comanche’s executive officer fell overboard, David, without hesitation, dived into the frigid waters to save him.  David also saved another shipmate who had grown too weak to swim and lifted him back into the cutter. In addition to the two men whom David single-handedly saved, he and his shipmates successfully rescued 93 survivors from the Dorchester.  Shortly after his heroics, David contracted pneumonia and succumbed to the illness. The Coast Guard posthumously awarded David the Navy & Marine Corps Medal, its third highest award for bravery under fire from enemy action.

                              Wait… the story does not end here.

Following the torpedoing of the USAT Dorchester, four Army chaplains – representing Methodist, Jewish, Protestant and Catholic faiths guided soldiers trapped below decks to escape hatches.  The chaplains passed out life vests and when the supply ran out, they gave their own to men who had none.  Finally, they linked arms to pray and sing hymns as the Dorchester slipped beneath the waves.

These men of faith became known as the “Four Chaplains”.   The impact of the chaplains resulted in memorials and media coverage. Each of the four chaplains were posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, and the Purple Heart.  They were nominated for the Medal of Honor but were found to be ineligible as they had not engaged in combat with the enemy. Instead, Congress created a medal for them, called the Four Chaplains Medal (1960), with the same weight and importance of the Medal of Honor.

As of a result of their heroic actions, two documentaries, five publications, nine artistic pieces and numerous pieces of music were created in their honor. A commentative US postage stamp was created to honor their sacrifices. In 1998, February, 3 of that year was established as “Four Chaplains Day” to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the sinking of the USAT Dorchester and subsequent heroism of these men.

A national foundation, the “Four Chaplain’s Memorial Foundation”, a 501(c)(3) charity was established to honor the legacy of the Four Chaplains.  Its official mission statement is:

“… further the cause of “unity without uniformity” by encouraging goodwill and cooperation among all people.”

Furthermore, the organization states it “achieves its mission by advocating for and honoring people whose deeds symbolize the legacy of the Four Chaplains aboard the USAT Dorchester in 1943”.

“Truth is powerful, and it prevails.”

– Sojourner Truth, American Abolitionist & Woman Rights Activist

And so… What about the honors or recognition for black Coastguardsman Charles Walter David, Jr. who sacrificed his life saving the lives of 95 of his fellow crewmen including his executive officer?  What is the reason that he received the Navy & Marine Corps Medal, the third highest award for bravery whereas the Four Chaplains received the Distinguished Service Medal, the nation’s second highest medal for bravery?  What is the reason that Congress has failed to enact recognition for Seaman David’s bravery and sacrifice and bestow upon him a Congressional medal equal to that that was bestowed upon the Four Chaplains? 

What is the reason that Senate has not passed a resolution for a “day” acknowledging the actions of Seaman David saving the lives of 95 men during the same actions resulting in the sinking of the USAT Dorchester and the loss of the Four Chaplains? Where are the publications, documentaries artwork, music, commentative postage stamps and memorials honoring Seaman David who repeatedly dove into frigid waters, saving the lives of 95 men and sacrificing his own?  Reflecting on the earlier statement of the Union solder and former slave, exhausted from battle, remembering the words, “We’ve Loved America More Than It Ever Loved Us.”  Where are the honors, recognition and glory, due to black Coastguardsman Charles Walter David, Jr.? These words are frozen in time as they continue to be … ever so painful and ever so true.”

“In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.”

– Thurgood Marshall, first African American US Supreme Court Justice

Coastguardsman Stewards Mate Charles Walter David, Jr., a black man, volunteered to answer the call of duty and served his nation during wartime. Due to hate, racial prejudice and bigotry, he was treated as a second-class citizen; relegated to duties of mess attendant, cleaning and attending to the living quarters of white officers aboard his ship, he nevertheless volunteered and contributed strongly in the efforts to save the lives of white soldiers, sailors and coastguardsman.  In return for his heroic deeds, and the sacrifice of his life, he is denied in death the same if not similar acknowledgments given for bravery, valor and courage that were bestowed upon others. The only difference being of military rank, occupation and most importantly, the color of his skin. It is his race and the color that makes him invisible and allows others to abuse him today and forget about him tomorrow.

The Black Man… The Invisible Man

“I am an invisible man. – No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. Yet, I am invisible, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the floating heads you see in circus sideshows surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me, they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination — indeed, everything and anything except me”.

– Ralph Ellison, Writer

Concluding Words – Dr. Micheal Kane

“You’re not to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face realty. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.”

– Malcolm X, Civil Rights Activist

My Dear Readers,

On January 6, 2021, insurrectionists, blinded with delusions of patriotism, breached the US Capitol Building. Regardless of their beliefs, their actions were wrong, and history will hold them to account. As Malcolm X has clearly stated “Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.”  It was wrong of America to deny Coastguardsman Stewards Mate Charles Walter David, Jr. equality in recognition of his bravery, courage under fire and supreme sacrifice with the “Four Chaplains”. His accomplishments, unlike the “Four Chaplains’” are unknown to many and his memory lies in obscurity.

 In White America, there is acknowledgment for heroism. These heroes are permanently memorialized in the hearts and minds of those who sacrificed their lives for their country. The African American community should also be allowed to memorialized its hero of that fateful event. The wrong that was done cannot be undone however, as a nation, as Thurgood Marshall once stated, “In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute”.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the changes that we seek.”

– Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, Noble Lauriat

Ignorance can be the lack of knowledge. However, once we have knowledge and awareness, we are empowered to create transformation. As we are within days of the 78th anniversary of Coastguardsman Stewards Mate Charles Walter David, Jr. heroic actions and subsequent death, I am committed to begin a writing campaign that will address this wrong and allow the proper acknowledgment and honors that his actions warrant and for which he is truly due. I will be writing to President Biden, Vice President Harris, Honorable Members of Congress, The Secretary of Defense, The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Commandant of the US Coast Guard.  I invite the readership to join with me by contacting their representatives in Congress as well as sending emails to me affirming your support of this endeavor. If you would like to join me, my email address is drkane@lovingmemore.com.

“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.”

– Langston Hughes (Writer/Poet)

My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”

– Desmond Tutu Human Rights Activist

 “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” 

– Nelson Mandela

Standing Alone… The Unspoken Truth

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