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Red Tails "tells" important story for the new generation

By TU Campus Digest Editorial Board
On January 18, 2012

It is within grade school that we are first introduced to the idea of history and the fact that events that happened in the past can have far reaching effects on our future; in most cases, the things we learn in school follow us for the rest of our lives. We all remember the Revolutionary War between the colonists and Great Britain, the defeat of Hitler during World War Two, and even the Cuban Missile Crisis. However, sometimes what is left out of the history lesson speaks more volume than the information that is included; and we are only hurting the next generation when we fail to tell them the full story.

Between January 14 and January 16, Tuskegee University was host to a multitude of activities, media, and well known individuals in the movie community. This was due to the premier of Red Tails. Executively produced and funded by George Lucas and directed by Anthony Hemingway, who was previously associated with The Wire and Treme, the film tells the story of the first African American pilots who served in the United States military and their participation in World War Two.

While the story of the Tuskegee Airman is synonymous with any Tuskegee alumni or current student, it remains a part of history still relatively unknown to the majority outside the city of Tuskegee and even the south; and while major media coverage was present during the weekend, I feel that it was to actually cover the talent connected with the movie versus covering the event to highlight the important history taking place; and while replaying the story on the news several times a day may in fact inform a larger percentage of people who had no idea of the movie's existence, a three minute news clip cannot be the sole source of education on a topic that is centuries in the making. We have to take it to the classrooms.

The efforts of the actors of the movie sitting in at our university and speaking with the students as well as the community to promote this film were vastly appreciated. But frankly, they were preaching to the choir. Honestly an HBCU will support this movie, especially Tuskegee University, because the film honors the legacy of some of its finest sons and daughters. But what about talking to other universities with no identity to this story or even those of the younger generation?

This stops becoming a race issue when you look directly at the facts. A large group of individuals were subjugated to intense bouts of discrimination based on a defining characteristic. They were deemed inferior and faced wall after wall of adversity. However, nothing stopped each and every man and woman from doing what they felt was right and fighting through opposition with perseverance. This story isn't just a lesson for little black boys and girls, but a lesson for ALL children regardless of race or background. We can truly overcome anything when we set our minds to it. Obstacles that others set out to trip us up on don't have to stop our progress. If anything, we can use it as motivation to move even further forward.

However, these lessons and this story will not be covered if our educators simply try to fit it in between the story of Martin Luther King Jr. and the story of the Underground Railroad in February; and while the conversation of race and relations is far from over, we need to look past personal issues and think of the bigger picture. More and more of the original airmen are dying every year and with each passing we have less and less of a chance to hear the story straight from the individuals who lived it. These men and women who served their country are direct mouthpieces to children and rising adults with important lessons to give.

The weekend of January 20 is important in ensuring that this movie gains international success and fortune by purchasing a ticket at the box office; but while we have our heads in the clouds gazing at the stars, let's not forget to look down and see the little boy and girl, whose future we have to map out. Let's not let important lessons of history fail to educate the new generation.


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