No More Buffalo Soldiers

buffalo soldier

“Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival”. Easily translated as being prepared to fight for the preservation of life. The song continues to engage the listener by saying “If you know your history, then you would know where you coming from”. These are verses written by arguably one of the greatest musician in the history of the world, Robert Nesta Marley, in an effort to pay homage to the Negro Calvary of the 10th Calvary Regiment of the United States Army of 1866. I revisit the brave men of this regiment in an effort to speak about the war of attrition as it relates to the voice of the modern day African American athlete. Sun Tzu pronounces: “if you fight with all your might, there is a chance of life; where as death is certain if you cling to your corner” The men of the 10th Calvary Regiment continuously faced life and death situation throughout their service to this country during times of war. What is to be dually noted, is the fact that they were also fighting a domestic war as well. They faced a barrage of racial prejudice and acts of violence against them from U.S Army Civilians where they were stationed at as well. In spite of all these seemingly insurmountable odds, the men of this regiment would go on to forge a legacy inside the hallowed halls of American history. Their acts of nobility amidst a raging pool of molten racism, did not stop them from stepping up in the line of fire and standing up for what they believed in. This is honorable to say the least, as we can see the spirit of the Buffalo Soldiers in many African Americans throughout history, in such notable figures as Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Frederick Douglas and Medgar Evers. These men and their plights are well documented, however, what is often not spoken about enough are the contributions of the African American athlete and the voice(s) they would lend in a time of racial unrest and injustices in this country. They too were Buffalo Soldiers, fighting on a social frontline that mirrored that of the 10th Calvary Regiment. What a tragic anguish it must have been in showing up to work, only to be to have guns pointed at you from all sides. Something that only a real soldier can do.

Marianne Williamson intelligently stated in the poem “Our Deepest Fear”: “your playing small does not serve the world”. The poem continues that statement by concluding that: “There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.” As I recount the African American athlete’s voice, I find the latter of that statement to a greater truth than any other time in our country’s history. We had Jesse Owens, who in the face Hitler and his theory of Aryan supremacy and the ideas that African athletes were inferior, win gold medals at the 1938 Berlin Olympics in the long jump, the 200 meters and 100 meters respectively. We had Muhammad Ali, who refused to enlist in the armed services during the Vietnam War. An act that decimated his professional career as he was stripped of his heavy weight championship. His character would fall under extraordinary scrutiny when he decided to join the Nation of Islam; a group who was viewed as militant and a public enemy to the society due to their radical beliefs as it related to racial injustice in America. We have the Texas Western men’s basketball team of 1966 that started five black players for the first time in NCAA history that faced racial slurs, violent attacks and degradation on their way to winning a National Championship. Of course Jackie Robinson breaking the color line in the MLB holds an even greater impact on social changes that stem far beyond athletics. Other notable activist like Jim Brown (Cleveland Brown Hall of Fame Running Back) and Bill Russell (Boston Celtic Champion and Legend), all were activist in social change during a time when the racial climate was a festering storm, violent recourse was less deterred and death was an imminent weapon used in trying to silence the Civil Rights movement in our country. These men or should I say soldiers, could have easily “played small” and “cling in their corners”, but they chose to step into the line of fire as they recognized that they had an obligation to not just themselves, but they also had an obligation to their communities. As we sit in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s verdict, I am hearing the screams of injustice and heartbreaking empathy for his parents by athletes, via Twitter. I am here to ask those athletes, where were you? Where were you during a time of social injustice against a young man that probably resembled you at that same age? I am willing to believe he owned at least one pair of your sneakers or wore some of your teams apparel or merchandise. No one can’t tell me that he didn’t have at least one of your video games. I see a symbolic display of tweeting out pictures in hoodies like its a candlelight vigil, but what is a candle with no flame but a ball of wax. Would it have been too much for a Miami Heat player like Lebron or Wade to show up at the court house? Would it have change the outcome of the law interpretation? No. But would it bring light to an obviously flawed law in their own state? Yes it would. The modern athlete is more concerned with enhancing their brand and stock portfolio and less about those who spend their hard earned income and their invaluable time looking up to them as role models. We lack positive black men in our households at an alarming rate and most of the examples that young black men have sadly enough are athletes and entertainers. Most of these modern black athletes are extremely aware of this, as this too was life for most of them as well. It is quite stunning that the consciousness of the black athletes social responsibility to their communities are less than that of a white male. Sean Penn is trying to rebuild a ravaged Haiti, meanwhile Michael Jordan continues to charge his urban minions $200.00 for tennis shoes. Where are the Buffalo Soldiers? Perhaps they are more along the line of Buffalo Wild Wings, as they are nothing more than a franchise looking to sell anything for a buck.

The word responsibility holds a tremendous weight in its meaning. Add words such as nobility and righteousness and you will find that very few exhibit these characteristics. The frontline is not for the weak at heart. I often equate life’s plight to a game of musical chairs. When the music stops and there are no chairs left, are you brave enough to stand alone? Soldiers run towards a war with fear for their own safety following behind them in the wind. Perhaps I am fooled into believing hope is never lost; however I am having a hard time tracking down its address. Are there any Buffalo Soldiers out there? If so I prefer a smoke signal, no more tweeting. #in the heart of America

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