today in black history

July 17, 2024

The Port Chicago incident occurred in 1944 when Black Navy ammunition handlers were killed in a violent explosion at the California base.

The Cavalry Ain’t Coming

POSTED: July 27, 2019, 4:00 pm

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As a child the westerns that were shown on television Saturday mornings always drew my attention. Though historically inaccurate and, by today’s standards politically incorrect, they held my fascination as a child in the 1960s. Predictably, when the cowboys seemed outnumbered by the Indian warriors and in imminent danger, the sound of the bugles in the background meant the United States Cavalry was on its way to save the day. The soldiers on horseback would inevitably arrive just in time, every time. The troops came to represent an insurance policy for the endangered ‘settlers.’

Of course, it was fiction and bad fiction at that, but the idea of a rescue brigade is a source of comfort for the beleaguered. In real life though, such rescues rarely materialize. The downtrodden and beleaguered are left to fend for themselves and the result is usually predictable. The bad guys win and the good guys lose. We are in such a predicament at this present moment.

In the aftermath of a disastrous Democratic campaign in the 2016 presidential election, Black voters, the party’s most loyal voting bloc, feel left in the wilderness as a lecherous, racist and misogynist imposter occupies the Oval Office. Like an evil genie let out a bottle, Donald Trump has unleashed a barrage of the nation’s most vile thoughts and behaviors on women, Blacks, Latinos, the poor, immigrants and the LBGQT community. His depravity is such that Trump makes Satan jealous. As we strain to hear the sounds of the bugle, it has dawned upon many of us that no such rescue is coming. We are left to fend for ourselves.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. There is something about having no choice but to find your own path that can be energizing, uplifting and powerful. I believe this moment was predestined. It has been evident for some time that the duality of electoral politics had run its course in terms of delivering measurable benefits to the most marginalized in this nation. The last momentous redistributive policy victory was the Civil Rights Act of 1968, also known as the Fair Housing Act. Since the Johnson administration we have been playing defense; trying to hold onto the victories of the short but momentous civil rights movement. Now, we are forced to come up with a new playbook.

This is where we have fallen woefully short. We have engaged in a lot of wistful reminiscing and nostalgia about social movements of the past. We have canonized many of our past leaders and practically deified folks like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Our energy has been spent lamenting the present moment but paralyzed by our longing for the past. In the interim, we have let our infrastructure that allowed us to fight to fall apart. It is that very infrastructure that provided the tools for us to organize, mobilize and take strategic steps to dismantle systems of oppression. Black newspapers and magazines have ceased publication and their digital replacements have not replicated past successes. Historically Black colleges have ceased operations and some have failed to keep pace with changes that will make them competitive in the 21st century and beyond. Black churches have become more invested in charismatic leadership and branding than fulfilling the call of the Gospel to protect the ‘least of these.’ Our elected officials are more devoted to maintaining partisan loyalty than serving the people who elected them. We have allowed our public schools to become dysfunctional and indifferent to the needs of our children. The infrastructure was our Cavalry and it is broken, dysfunctional and ineffective. It’s time for version 2.0.

In Generation Z we have a population of tech savvy children and teenagers, and college students who are far more worldly than previous generations of Black youth. Yes, they can be distracted by their devices and often self-absorbed, but when guided and organized they are a powerful force. Our focus today should be on our children and youth. Baby Boomers and Millennials need to accept the harsh reality that in our lifetimes we will see very little improvement in the life experiences of Black and brown people in the United States. Our job is to make certain our children and grandchildren will, and our responsibility is making sure they do. We are their Cavalry. Every thing we do, every dollar we spend, every hour we use must be toward the goal of the true liberation of future generations of Black children. For many of us it has to be about sacrifice, teaching and passing down knowledge. Many of us won’t have the lifestyles we imagined or enjoy some of the material possessions we desired. If we are serious about saving Black people, then we must adopt an entirely different attitude about our lives.

We are the Cavalry and it’s time to organize the next generation of warriors.

Walter L. Fields is the Executive Editor of

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