When I Say Hero You Say…

When I say hero you say, Superman. When I say hero, you say George Washington or Lincoln or Lindberg.. or I can go on forever to name white heroes we worship. When I say hero, you say… some white guy.

But heroes come in all colors and genders. Sure there’s Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Joan of Arc. But they seem to be afterthoughts in our mythology.

Lately, we’re reminded that hero is not the exclusive domain of the “white guy.” I recently wrote about the hero of that Southwest Flight, Tammie Jo Shultz. And then, just a week later two other non-traditional heroes appeared. Let me restate that, they are traditional heroes, just in the case of popular culture, at least up until lately, they are not traditionally celebrated as heroes. Thankfully, that is changing… slowly. We’re starting to see non-white-male heroes appearing in movies like Wonder Woman, and the King of Wakanda, Black Panther.

Movie heroes are okay, but real-life heroes are better. On April 22, four people were killed and several others wounded by a white man with a gun. The carnage would have continued but that James Shaw Jr., a soft-spoken, articulate man of color risked his life and limb and ultimately was injured when he wrestled the gun away from the killer. Our President, who will tweet within 15 minutes of any ISIS-inspired terrorist attack anywhere in the world remained silent after this event. No, Mr. Trump did not talk about the terrorist act of the white nationalist who perpetrated this crime. No, the perpetrator was not a Muslim so the American President didn’t see the need to condemn the act. Nor did he take the time to heap praise on Mr. Shaw. Trump was silent.

Make no mistake, in a world where white murderers are captured alive and young black men are shot for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, James Shaw Jr. stepped up and made a difference. In a world where our national sports heroes like Collin Kaepernick are punished for questioning a system that does not value black lives… Mr. Shaw saved lives. In a place and time where our President sees the moral equivalency of both sides in the white supremacist clash last year in Charlottesville. Mr. Shaw displayed what truly good people do. He acted. He made a difference.

And then, after all, was right in the world, what did Mr. Shaw do? He started a GoFundMe campaign that as I write this on May 2nd, 2018, raised  $220 Thousand for the victims and their families. This man is a real American Hero! Thank you James Shaw Jr. Thank you.

Ten days earlier, two 23-year-old Americans, who just happened to be men of color were arrested and carted off from a Philadelphia Starbucks for doing what I get to do at least once a week… having a business meeting at a Starbucks. But I’m a victim of white privilege, and these two young men are guilty of being in Starbucks while black. Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson were in a Starbucks to meet someone for a business meeting. This isn’t Television. This is reality. This wasn’t the media steriotype of young black men working a drug deal. They weren’t meeting a pimp. Yet again, two articulate young men were carted away in handcuffs to jail for being at a Starbucks.

If that were me, I’d want my pound of flesh. The Philadelphia police screwed up, and they knew it. So when these two reached a $200,002  settlement with the city of Philadelphia, they took a dollar each restitution for the transgressions of the Philadelphia police. Mr. Robinson and Mr. Nelson selflessly directed the city to place the remaining $200 thousand in a fund to create a Philadelphia High School entrepreneurship program. Robinson and Nelson will be on a committee of this program awarding grants to help public high school students obtain the skills to become business owners.

I’ll argue that these three men, James Shaw Jr. Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson are traditional American Heroes. I’d argue that White Privileged America needs to recognize, reward, and celebrate these heroes, that heroism knows no race, gender or religion. Yet prejudice does. We need to acknowledge that mass murderer (typically white males), white nationalist terrorists are more dangerous to America than a young black kid in a hoodie. These heroes are no different than Martin Luther King, The Tuskegee Airman, or Nelson Mandella. Just like white men like me are as likely to be a Jeffrey Dahmer, an Oklahoma City Bomber or James Alex Fields, the driver charged with murdering a young woman with his car in Charletssvile last year.

And unlike Superman, James Bond, Batman and the King of Wakanda… these young men are real.

Thank you, gentleman! Thank you.