For Your Consideration

Now that the festivities on the fourth are done and the celebration gives way to recuperation, may I offer something for your consideration?

Imagine for a moment the year is 1776 and you are black.  You are owned by a white man, a rich white man.  He is riding off to fight for independence from England.  He has fully embraced the idea of freedom and liberty and an individual’s right to determine their own destiny.  He has not offered you your freedom and has taken certain steps to ensure you don’t try to gain it yourself in his absence.

How important would the fourth of July be to you?

Let’s skip forward a few years.

You are still black, but free and living in Philadelphia, maybe New York.  War has begun with the southern states which are fighting to retain the right to own your people as slaves.  The white people around you argue over what they are fighting for, retaining the Union or freeing the slaves.  Either way, you still aren’t allowed to worship with, go to school with, join the labor guild, or live in the same area as all these lighter skinned Americans.  Even the unpopular immigrants, Irish and Italians, don’t appear to like you.  They are coming over in droves.

How would you feel about America as you watch these newcomers become naturalized citizens, who then riot at the idea of a draft to go fight for black people’s freedom?

Soon the whole world is at war.

Germany keeps invading other countries and declaring themselves superior.  You, a black person watch as the whole country marches off to stamp out the evils of Nazi racism and protect the freedoms of not just America, but the world.  Meanwhile a law was passed saying you can vote, yet you still aren’t allowed to do so.  You can’t testify in court against a white person, no matter who that white person is or what they have done, you still can’t join the unions or go to the same school as the white people, and all the police are white.

In such a situation what might you think when the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor?

Then we go off to fight in Asian countries.  We do so to protect against the freedom squelching powers of communism.  Thousand upon thousands of  American soldiers are shipped thousands of miles away to defend the relative freedom of citizens of Korea and Vietnam.  Meanwhile you, remember you are black, still can’t send your kids to the good public school, ride in the front of the bus, join the union, see a white doctor, or live next door to a white person.  Did I mention you still live in Philadelphia?  A bunch of folks from all over are heading south on Greyhound buses and they are getting beaten senseless.  The Police don’t protect them because they are the ones doing the beating.

How, with all this in mind, would you feel about America?

Would you be justified in being angry?

Would it make sense that you lack pride in these United States?

Might you resent this country and its promises applied to all except you and yours?

Maybe.

Lets consider how black people have reacted historically (go back to being white again).  In the Revolution black people signed up to fight.  There was a hope that freedom and liberty would one day trump the slave system.

In the civil war black people lobbied and pushed for the right to fight for the north, and once allowed, did so with vigor.

In the World Wars, black people enlisted.  Knowing they would be relegated to being cooks and porters, they still joined up to go fight for other’s freedom.  Many even enlisted in foreign regiments to be able to see combat.  They did not relinquish their American identity, but had to join a foreign force to be allowed to defend home.  Black troops were on the vanguard liberating Paris and concentration camps.

While the law would not defend black people at home, they were still drafted to go to Southeast Asia.  They fought and died just like the white men.

All throughout American history black people have answered America’s call.  From it’s inception, American’s with ancestral roots in Africa have stood up for the Star Spangled Banner and put their lives on the line.

Who can compete with this brand of patriotism?  What group of people has better earned a right to complain or voice opinion on national matters?  Who am I, to ever cast doubt on the motivations or loyalties of these “others”?  If I ever hear a black commentator, blogger, or author being less than enthused when America is celebrated, maybe I’m the one who should be quiet.

On this, the days after our nation’s birthday, maybe we can think a little about where we have been and where we are now.

God Bless America and all those who call her home.

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7 Comments

Filed under history

7 responses to “For Your Consideration

  1. Will Smith

    Imagine you are an up and coming young rapper from West Philly, whom over the course of a few decades becomes a widely recognized TV star, later joins the Hollywood elite, and successfully completes a number of Summer blockbusters. Additionally, you find at your disposal untold wealth, fame, fortune, notoriety, and global goodwill, including the ability to effectuate substantive change, possibly revitalizing the corner of Washington and Broad, and giving back to the urban blight that shaped you. What do you do? Leave and never look back (except for donating a few computers every once in awhile).

    Signed,

    Will Smith

  2. Dear Will, how nice of you to write. I read your letter over and over but still fail to grasp what you are trying to say. It seems ever since I became a parent I just don’t understand.

  3. Lindsey

    Great post Bro, although spelling and grammar still need a little check. Feel free to send posts to me for free editing. And now, that being said, Iiiiiiin West Philadelphia born and raised, on the playground is where I spent most of my days, chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool, playin’ some b-ball outside after school…I’m going to have that stuck in my head all day until we rehearse Rhapsody in Blue tonight, which will then be stuck in my head for a loooong time….*sigh*
    Really, though. Very thought provoking post.

  4. Good post, i agree with everything you’ve and on a personnel level i often think at certain times when a military recruiter calls, hassled high end stores, walking in my neighborhood with constant stares and etc. I feel Black people are justified in being less patriotic if the person chooses but as long as the person understands the history of blacks in this country and not just for the sake of being rebellious.

  5. I’ve noticed a trend, that we frequent the same blogs, so I decided to pay yours a visit.

    Despite the few grammatical errors, this an outstanding piece of writing. It shows, and not tells, both about the experiences of African-Americans in our history, and their willingness to sacrifice for an ideal many probably knew would never come true in their lifetimes.

    Bravo.

  6. @Kionon, grammatical and typing errors are my forte’. I need a good editor, one who proof reads at 1am wgen I’ve whipped out some article and posted just in time to get emails from mys isters telling me how silly it makes me look to be so riddled with mistakes… sigh.
    But thank you for the compliments. I may be full of mistakes, but I feel strongly about certain things.

  7. I’m an English teacher. It comes with the territory.

    😀

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