While the facts surrounding the kidnapping and rescue of the Maersk Alabama Captain Richard Phillips have been widely reported, less well-known is that ship which saved him was commanded by a black woman, Rear Admiral Michelle Howard.
Howard received the assignment of leading the U.S. Navy’s counter-piracy task force just three days before the Maersk Alabama was attacked by Somalia pirates.
“It’s probably one of the most exciting missions the Navy has been on in for a long while,” Howard told the Navy Times.
Did you know the Maersk captain was rescued by a black woman? I didn’t either.
On the one hand, I’m almost glad this wasn’t publicized; I could almost believe this means Howard wasn’t regarded as special or unusual by the media covering the Maersk incident. That’s what we want, after all — not to be depicted as a race of thugs and hoochiemamas that occasionally spawns a Morgan Freeman-like Messiah figure that will save all us from
tsunamis terrorists the recession. We are ordinary people, with the same range of characters and behaviors as anybody else — good and bad. But I highly doubt Howard was overlooked by the mainstream media because she was “too ordinary”. I think Captain Phillips fit the image in the producers’/reporters’/editors’ heads of what heroism should look like: white, male, one brave man surrounded by black savages. And I think Admiral Howard defied that image, being black and female and in charge of a diverse team of competent people, so they discarded her. I think we still exist as nothing more than a collection of stereotypes and inaccurate assumptions in the eyes of most Americans — unfortunately including ourselves. We’re not ordinary enough to have ordinary heroes, not yet. Not according to them.
But fortunately, there is the blogosphere.
So. Admiral Howard’s a hero. Pass it on.