Capitol officer Eugene Goodman must not fade into history — it’s happened before
OPINION: Jason Johnson reflects on past black heroes who saved lives and democracy and yet are not in public memory
Once upon a time there was a black security guard who saved American democracy. His quick thinking and attention to detail enabled him to stop an organized group of right-wingers who had broken into key government offices looking for information to overthrow the will of the people.
This man has been hailed as a hero, but you've probably never heard of him.
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You may think I'm referring to Eugene Goodman, the Black Capitol Hill police officer who faced a horde of MAGA terrorists and saved the US Senate. However, I am actually talking about another black man who saved democracy, Frank Wills, who stopped the 1972 Watergate slump that changed the course of American history.
Read more: Capitol Officer who saved Senators' lives offered a free stay at the French B&B
Eugene Goodman, Capitol Hill Police Officer (Photo credit: New York Times)
But for such a significant achievement, Wills died relatively unknown and penniless, while other, almost exclusively white men, came to fame and fortune through the Watergate scandal. Black people are often lauded as heroes for saving a country that treats us like third-class citizens, but when it comes to the fame, fortune, and even historical awe associated with these great deeds, we fall by the wayside.
After last week's terrorist attacks on Congress, now is a good time to remember that if we don't get the names of men like Eugene Goodman on our lips, he'll be slipping into a whisper of history in no time because of it so has happened before.
It's not an exaggeration, exaggeration, or opening speech of a television movie (are they even still doing this on network television?) To say that Eugene Goodman saved American democracy on January 6, 2021. Experts, tacticians, and military veterans pointed this out when you see the video of his confrontation with MAGA terrorists at the Capitol, it was his quick thinking that saved the day.
First, Officer Goodman distracted the terrorists from noticing an open door to the Senate Chamber, where the members were still and defenseless. Then he started leading the terrorists away from the Senate, and when it looked like the group was going back to the Senate Chamber, he poked and pissed off terrorist leader Doug Jensen and attacked the mob just long enough to get them into the Other officers were waiting to arrest the whole group.
Do you know how in every Jurassic Park movie there is a brave guy running through the rain with a red torch stopping a T-Rex from killing all the nerdy scientists? Eugene Goodman is that guy and Jason Bourne.
African American patriotic heroism is always a strange spectacle. Often white political observers and politicians praise blacks for their bravery, privately in awe of a people who continue to risk their lives for a country that is still barely letting them vote. Even black political watchers often express mixed feelings about moments of “patriotic” valor. On the one hand because he wanted to praise great heroism and on the other hand he thought, was this black man or woman really paid enough to take all the smoke for a person or institution that rarely treats us as equals?
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