Dr. Gladys West, The Black Woman Who Invented The GPS, Gets Honored By U.S. Air Force At The Pentagon [BusinessGhana]
That seems remarkable. Not just a woman– a black woman! Of course, those mean men in charge of the Pentagon made sure she didn’t get credit. For inventing the GPS. Everybody knows its true.
Or is it.
The first clue is that most of the websites that refer to Gladys West (the “Dr.” came much later in life– she was not a “Dr.” when she worked for the Air Force) is the oblique tone of the reference: her work contributed to, was essential to, helped, contributed largely to, and so on.
You ask yourself: is it in the interests of the Air Force to quietly accede to some exaggeration here? So they could be seen to be honoring a black woman? So they could be seen to be addressing a historical injustice? So they could be seen as progressive and enlightened? If someone thought they were now exaggerating her role, would that person dare to speak up?
The header, “The Black Woman Who Invented the GPS”, is a lie. She was involved in some of the research required for the project, but to say she “invented GPS” is a gross distortion of her role. It’s the kind of lie Hollywood embraces. It’s the kind of lie middling America adores. It doesn’t really offend conservatives (because it makes it look like they always were colorblind when it came to talent) and it totally gratifies white liberals because it vindicates their politics and their self-satisfaction, and everyone else is glad to feel like they are not really racist because, after all, they enjoyed this film, just like they enjoyed “The Green Book” and “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”.
It does not help your cause to exaggerate. To lie. The next time I see a headline insisting that a black woman saved hundreds of lives or stopped a war or built an airplane or solved pi or defeated the Nazis– well? Did you really?