Tuesday, July 8, 2008
In recent weeks, mainstream media and some White Americans appeared to have enjoyed a verbal slug festival at the expense of presumed Democratic presidential nominee Barrack H. Obama. Through his presidential campaign questions of his patriotism have persisted and subsequently called into question the patriotism of many from within the African-American community. Obama in a June 30th 2008, speech given to supporter in Independence, MO eloquently explained how his personal experiences with family and others have shaped his feelings of patriotism. In the aftermath of his remarks “talk radio” conservatives and liberal engaged in heated dialogue steeped in the question of what is “black patriotism” and can it exist. Many on the “right” seemed to frame their debates in the absolute assumption that you are patriotic or you aren’t and there is no such animal as ‘black patriotism”. On the other hand some liberal opinions centered on the ideal that the African-American experience in this country renders most African-Americans incapable of having a sincere sense of patriotism towards this country.
Once again mainstream American (therefore most whites) have completely missed the point, got it wrong and struck the hell out on this one. They’ve gotten this one wrong as they always do because they are supremely convinced that in order for anything to wear their labels the thing has to wear it the way “white America” wears it. In this case the label being worn is patriotism and for many of them the primary ways of demonstrating patriotism are tied to participation in ritualistic activities like standing with hand covered hearts during the singing of the National Anthem at a ball park where thirty minutes later you’ll find them slumped in their seat drunk from that fourth beer they hoisted with other hand during the anthem. This and other activities like attending Civil War battle re-enactments, American flags being flown from front porches and wearing flag pins on lapels are frankly considered phony and meaningless by many within the African-Americans. None of these activities signify patriotism levels and only mirror the effect of a suburban white family’s Saturday morning race to work on their lawns to hopefully gain the praise/envy of their competing neighbors. It’s all sizzle with no steak.
As for the question of “black patriotism”…there is no question…yes it exists and most importantly it is real, heartfelt and meaningful in ways unimagined in the hearts of white Americans. For African-Americans, patriotism is bittersweet and reflective of our history experience in our country. How could white America question the patriotism of a community that has birthed men and women that have willfully been contributors in every major U.S. military conflict this country has seen? It’s a miracle that you can find black men/women enlisting in today’s armed forces with the opposing opinions our community gives its young people considering this option. Yet year after year our disproportionate population of young African-Americans show up and serve with valor. This country’s factual history is stocked with records and accounts of our contributions to the goodwill of a country that has on numerous occasions exploited the validity of our rights as citizens much less our rights to a return on our investment in this country. In the movie “Patton”, George C. Scott’s character General Patton makes a famous address to a tank battalion in a small village in France, and in this depiction per the movie he is addressing a battalion of white soldiers but history tells us that the entire battalion was an all black battalion. The reasons for such a gross misrepresentation of the facts is not the point but more important here is the fact that black soldiers have consistently petitions to be vetted in the battles this country has fought. They have fought and fought well despite the knowledge that upon returning home not much would change in the way they were view by mainstream America. When mainstream America finally gets a clue and looks for patriotism in black American in the places where it shows up, whether it is in the heat of military conflict, the ball park or just doing the right thing. They will probably find out that yes it exists and it is one of the things that right with this country. The spirit of black patriotism is rooted in our commitment to loving a country that doesn’t always love us back. Until we reach a point in this country when the labels aren’t necessary black Americans will take our patriotic cue from every black enlisted man and woman to serve in the armed forces, the “Tuskegee Airmen”, the Black Tank Battalions of WWII, Jesse Owens, Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson and yes Muhammad Ali.