Celebrating his 102 birthday, the oldest surviving Tuskegee Airman — the nation’s first all-black aviation unit — lamented the fact that racial discrimination still pervades America almost 70 years after President Harry Truman integrated the armed forces.
In an interview with People magazine, Sgt. Preston Jowers said it “breaks his heart” that America still hasn’t moved past racial hatred.
“I just have to ask ‘Why?’ ” Jowers, who was an engineer told People. “We proved all those years ago that black men and women weren’t dummies, we showed the nation that we are capable of doing a job and doing it well, but racism — it just hasn’t stopped.”
“I want young people to realize that you too can make it and make a difference, just like we did in the war,” he added.
According to Jowers things aren’t as bad now as when he was a young man, explaining, “We couldn’t eat together, we couldn’t fight the war with white men. The racism didn’t pertain to me as much, because I was a mechanic, but men with the same rank who were different races couldn’t even talk to each other back in those days. It was some of the worst segregation I’d ever seen.”
Jowers described the deeply ingrained racism that prevented black men from flying planes in the military.
“Officers during the war thought the black man’s brain was so different that they couldn’t fly a plane,”he explained.
Despite be a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, Jowers said he was unable to find a job in aviation after leaving the service and instead went into the trucking business.
“It was my dream job, so I went to the Detroit City Airport to try and get a job, but they wouldn’t even let me in the door because of the color of my skin,” he says. “It was hard because I’d just served my country, but here I was being turned away from a job I was qualified for. Even though I never worked on planes again, because of the color of my skin, I take pride in the fact that I did the best I could on my work during the war.”
You can watch an interview with Jowers below via WDIV: