Profile - The CAF Red Tail Project

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South St. Paul, MN, United States
The mission of the Commemorative Air Force's (CAF) Red Tail Squadron is to preserve and share the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America's first black military pilots. The Airmen served with distinction during WWII (and beyond). They overcame racism on the ground to fight fascism in the air, fighting for a country that turned a blind eye to policies and a large population that discriminated against these men and their families because of the color of their skin. The CAF Red Tail Squadron restored and flies a red-tailed P-51C Mustang such as the Airmen flew during WWII. The airplane appears at air shows in North America and at each stop her crew tells the story of the Airmen and how through persistence and courage they overcame huge obstacles in order to serve in the military. In 2011, the CAF Red Tail Squadron developed a traveling exhibit called "RISE ABOVE" to educate people - especially young people - about the Airmen and how they demonstrated the importance of setting goals and overcoming obstacles in order to succeed.

Friday, November 4, 2011

On Bullying

<Fair warning - today's blog has nothing to do with airplanes, World War II, air shows, etc.  Instead, in this age of diminished civility on so many levels, I decided to base the blog on an anecdotal story I saw on Facebook.  Since many - me included - feel that the instant and often anonymous communication that social media channels like Facebook allows has contributed to we humans' inability to be consistently gracious to one another, I enjoyed the irony.>

     My former sister-in-law posted the story below on her Facebook page this week.  I didn't run it by Snopes because even if it wasn't true, I thought it was a wonderful way to get the point across that what you say to someone - and how you say it - matters. The "target market" for the teacher's exercise was youngsters, but even we older folks can use a reminder once in a while:

     A teacher in New York was teaching her class about bullying and gave them an exercise to perform.  She had each child take a piece of paper and told them to crumple it up, stomp on it and really mess it up, but not to rip it.  Then she had them unfold each sheet of  paper, smooth it out and look at how scarred and dirty is was.  She then told them to tell their papers they were sorry.

    Even though the children said they were sorry and tried to fix the papers, she pointed out all the scars they left behind on each sheet.  And that those scars will never go away no matter how hard they tried to fix it.  She said that that is what happens when a child bullies another child - bullies may say they’re sorry, but the scars are there forever.  The looks on the faces of the children in the classroom told her the message hit home.

     As a group, the men who would become known as the Tuskegee Airmen endured bullying because of the color of their skin and the fact that they worked toward a goal that many felt they had no business trying to attain. Many citizens of Tuskegee, Alabama, which was located in the deep South, bullied the cadets individually and as a group if they ventured into town, taunting them with intimidating language and threats.  The military bullied them - the first two base commanders at Tuskegee enforced the local "whites only" rules by requiring that the mess, water fountains, restrooms and other "public" areas on the base be segregated just as they were in town.  The military looked the other way when white officers would not return black officers' salutes. 
     When you think about it, it's pretty amazing how the individual Tuskegee Airmen had the collective backbone to continue to strive to be the best they could be when so many were either telling them outright or subtly hinting that they would never be up to snuff.  It's the Airmen's focus on overcoming obstacles to reach their goal that is the basis for the CAF Red Tail Squadron's RISE ABOVE educational mission.  If the Squadron can help young people see that it is possible to persevere and succeed - using the Airmen's history as an example - perhaps even those who have been crumpled and scarred by bullying can see their way to rise above what life has handed them and succeed.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven 501c3 non-profit organization that operates under the auspices of the Commemorative Air Force. For more information, please visit redtail.org.

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