Commentary By Kwame M.A. Soburu
The May 18 San Francisco Chronicle had an article titled “A Soldier’s Life.” It was about eighth-graders from a low-income area of California on a field trip to San Francisco’s Presidio-a former military base-to learn about the “Buffalo Soldiers, the Black troops who protected settlers as they traveled West.”
The students gathered in a tent, listened to an “audiotape describing the conflicts and contributions of the courageous Black regiments,” and wrote in their journals. The students were participating in a program sponsored by the National Park Service, which is “designed to connect minority students to their heritage.”
One innocent, mis-educated youth said, “I didn’t even know they existed. I’m proud to know African Americans were Buffalo Soldiers.”
Who were the Buffalo Soldiers? Following the end of the Civil War, the Northern capitalists decided that some of the Black soldiers who had played a major role in defeating the Southern slavemasters in the war could be used in the continuing wholesale robbery of Native American land by white corporations and settlers, big and small.
One year after the Civil War, the Chronicle stated, “Congress passed new legislation that for the first time in U.S. history permitted Black people to enlist in the Army.” Six all-Black regiments “were established primarily to help rebuild the nation, which had been devastated by the intense fighting.”
Over 200 years of slavery had devastated the existence of millions of slaves and so-called free Blacks (4 million slaves, 500,000 free in 1861). Yet the victorious Northern capitalists did not see fit to organize or aid in the organization of these victims of both Northern and Southern oppression to rebuild their shattered lives.
In some instances, Northern soldiers occupying the South even sided with the white gangs that terrorized and killed Black people in order to prevent them from organizing themselves politically. The betrayal of the former slaves and quasi-free Blacks by the Northern capitalists restored white racist rule throughout the South.
This outing to the Presidio is truly a sad example of the mis-education of African American youth. They are indoctrinating naive, inexperienced students who are not given the opportunity to know the truth about American history from the viewpoint of the oppressed.
The superintendent of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Brian O’Neil, said, “We wanted this to be relevant to the education of students in the Ravenswood district.” A park volunteer said that the program “has been a hit with students and teachers.”
Gary McKinney, a teacher, said, “They get an opportunity to see that people who looked like them were successful and made real accomplishments.” Yes, in spreading white supremacy and oppressing Native Americans.
The article also stated that the Buffalo Soldiers “fought racism and were often given inferior supplies.” But it is apparent that the racism that they fought against was only in the military. They wanted equal opportunities to fight, kill, and oppress Indians just like the whites had been doing for hundreds of years.
The Buffalo Soldiers were also given the opportunity to fight for American imperialism under the command of the racist Theodore Roosevelt and his so-called Rough Riders during the Spanish American War-in which the United States acquired for itself Spain’s colonies in Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. In the rebellion that followed, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos (generally called “niggers” by racist white Americans) were slaughtered by U.S. troops or died of famine and disease.
The pay of the Black soldiers in the war was less than what whites received. “Yet,” the Chronicle assured us, “many Black men enlisted out of sense of duty and honor to their country and their people.” In what way were they serving or honoring their people by fighting for a criminal ruling class in its wars against oppressed freedom fighters?
Eighteen Buffalo Soldiers, the article states, received the Medal of Honor for valor during the Spanish American War. But the article does not mention the many Black soldiers who were disgusted by the racist slaughter and deserted from the Army-some of whom fought instead with the Filipino freedom fighters against U.S. colonialism.
The Chronicle reported that one young victim of this alleged educational excursion to the Presidio planned to come again and to bring her family. “It’s good to see all the people who died for us and for the country,” she said.
Unfortunately, no African American ever was honored by the U.S. government for fighting in the interests of their people against white supremacist murders, rapists, wholesale robbers, slave masters, or the armed government agents who often were backing up the anti-Black terrorists.