Boooooy, when I tell you white fragility is a hell of a drug. The addictive substance that is white fragility is so strong, it will have a hue-less person doing things they never thought they’d do—like cutting a decorated veteran’s mic in the middle of his Memorial Day speech because he delved into the history of how Black people pioneered the honoring of fallen troops.
The Washington Post reports that 77-year-old retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter was delivering his speech at a Memorial Day ceremony in a cemetery in Hudson, Ohio. The speech started off well enough for people who just got their last white fragility fix like half an hour ago and could probably hold out another hour or two before they started jonesing for another hit.
“This is Memorial Day,” Kemter began during his recorded speech. “It is the day we pay homage to all of those who served in the military and didn’t come home.”
He called the holiday “a day of solemn contemplation over the cost of our freedoms.”
At this point, I’m sure white folks in the audience, as well as the organizers for the event, felt comfortable in their sobriety knowing that this would be a generic, garden-variety Memorial Day speech that defaulted to centering whiteness and painted America as the “shining city on the hill” and not a place where Black people were once owned as property.
But apparently, the organizers knew it was time to get high on whiteness once Kemter started talking about a “remarkable discovery in a dusty Harvard archive” that he said showed, based on “newspaper clippings and handwritten notes” found by researchers, that “Memorial Day was first commemorated by an organized group of Black freed slaves less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered.”
Kemter continued talking about how Black people started this Memorial Day shit for another minute or so before the white and fragile versions of Pookie from New Jack City who organized the event muted his mic.
“I assumed it was a technical glitch,” Kemter told the post.
But it was not a glitch—more like an itch. The type of itch they feel when white fragility just be calling them, man, it just be calling—they just gotta go to it.
Of course, the organizers said they cut a whole-ass veteran’s free speech to shreds, not because the Blackness was harshing their buzz, but because the Black history part of American history that he tried to teach “was not relevant.”
From the Post:
One of the event’s organizers later admitted the audio had been deliberately turned down, telling the Akron Beacon Journal that Kemter’s discussion of Black history “was not relevant to our program for the day.”
“We asked him to modify his speech, and he chose not to do that,” Cindy Suchan, president of the Hudson American Legion Auxiliary, told the Beacon Journal.
Now the Ohio American Legion is investigating the incident, and Kemter has accused the organizers of “censoring” him.
“I was very disappointed that someone would choose to censor my speech,” Kemter—a combat medic who served in the Army from 1965 through 1995—told the post.
“Throughout history, there has been a lot of claims about who actually performed the first Memorial Day service,” Kemter continued. “With this speech, I chose to educate people as to the origin of Memorial Day and why we were celebrating it.”
But people who are of the same ilk as the legion of Republican propagandists who are on a mission to ban Critical Race Theory into oblivion aren’t trying to learn any history that centers oppressed Black people—at some point, their white fragility highs have to come down for them to function, after all.
“I find it interesting that [the American Legion] would take it upon themselves to censor my speech and deny me my First Amendment right to [freedom of] speech,” Kemter told the Journal. “…This is not the same country I fought for.”
I’m sorry to tell you Kemter, but yes, yes it is.