PostRacialist

So … Do Black People “Heart” America Now? (Fourth of July)

The first person to die during the Boston Massacre was a black man, Crispus Attucks. I honesly don’t know why homie was there. Was he throwing a block of wood or relaxing, leaning on a stick? Either way. He was the first to take two to the chest and go down for the emancipation of colonies from the British.

Despite being lauded as a symbol of the American Revolution and abolitionist movement, I’d argue that most black people didn’t get too wistful on the Fourth of July until right … about … now.

What a difference a black president makes.

More after the jump.

I perfectly understand why a lot of black people do not own American flag boxer shorts, truck magnets that say “Don’t Tread On Me” or don’t know the lyrics to “I’m Proud to Be An American.” We haven’t felt included. We didn’t feel like the holiday was “for us.” Hoodwinked. Bamboozeled. We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on us. I know the record. Own it. Have sung the tune repeatedly.

But, shock of shocks, patriotism among America’s original underclass is not a completely foreign thing. Crispus Attucks wasn’t the first or last black person to take one for the team that didn’t even want him. There were the many blacks who fought in the Civil War (where we were told we would be too cowardly to fight) and the Spanish American War (where the Buffalo Soldiers were the most seasoned regiment). To both Word Wars, where we, again, had to argue why we were worthy enough to die for our country. To today, where black men and women serve America in all branches of government and the military.

Then there are those who stood up and demanded that America live up to its promise of equality. Those would be your abolitionists, your freedom fighters, your freedom riders, your Civil Rights Era protesters, your anti-lynching movement organizers (hat tip to Ida B. Wells), to those who integrated when integration wasn’t cool — all because they believed in the potential of this country.

But what about the rest of us? Those of us for who the Fourth was just another excuse to burn some ribs? Us who’ve never owned a flag and put it in the front yard? Us who fumble through the Star Spangled Banner, who wouldn’t even recite the pledge, or who greeted every Fourth with an anemic shrug? What about those of us who went from a “Amen, Rev. Wright! Goddamn America!” to “Obama’s president! Shut up, Rev. Wright! I love America!” Those who pulled the patriotism 180 degree turn on their friends and family, leaving them bewildered how Uncle Cleofus went from throwing free mini flags in the trash to hoisting up the biggest Old Glory he could find at the Home Depot?

Is this sudden patriotism about America? The president? Or both? It’s it hip now to be patriotically square? It’s sort of like the episode of King of the Hill when resident crazy pants conspiracy theorist Dale Gribble reads the Warren Report and realizes that Oswald being the sole shooter was plausible therefore he suddenly becomes an obnoxious, flag waving, jingoistic prick.

Maybe it’s just me, but for some reason, it rings a little hollow. Black people, in the past, have always been viewed with a jaundiced eye over our patriotism. We’re asked to prove something that was already proven in the fact that we’ve always worked within the system to enact change, not outside of it or subverted it, but went with the tools give to us within the law. We obviously have our issues with being wanted or unwanted by America. We obviously have our issues with showing the sort of naked patriotism we’ve never been able to afford lest we be immensely disappointed by the crushing reality of our society. But if you could just barely tolerate the Fourth last year and you’re high as a kite this year I’m going to make fun of you. I just am. I think you’re hilariously corny. Because while we did change presidents … mmmm, America is still America.

Love it accordingly.

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16 thoughts on “So … Do Black People “Heart” America Now? (Fourth of July)

  1. Court says:

    "But if you could just barely tolerate the Fourth last year and you’re high as a kite this year I’m going to make fun of you. I just am. I think you’re hilariously corny. Because while we did change presidents … mmmm, America is still America. Love it accordingly."-Black SnobABSOLOUTLY. Just yesterday someone asked me if I’m a big celebrator of the 4th of July? I said, well I’m a big celebrator of barbecue, does that count?The way I perceive America hasnt changed too much with Obama’s election, and the ways it has changed aren’t necessarily positive. But if you want to give me a day off to stuff my mouth hole with ribs and beer, then by all means. Mmmmm…. ribs.

  2. dukedraven says:

    There are some black patriotic flag-wavers. Not many, but some. I just try to view myself as a citizen of the world, for the most part. I have affinity for this land because it’s my homeland. I keep it real and in perspective nevertheless.

  3. Nicole says:

    i’m a historian and i was JUST trying to write a paper about this very subject. not surprisingly there aren’t too many academics willing to handle the problem of black patriotism in this country (although to be fair i was trying to focus only on the american revolution- the beginning of this dilemma- but still). this is a really great post and i loved it. not only because i’ve gotten all kinds of crap for not standing for the star spangled banner at baseball games, especially because my nieces usually choose to follow me and stay put (apparently i’m a bad example… oops) and i’ve never in my life owned anything with a flag on it. anyway, great post. i might use it to teach a class or two…

  4. halfmoon circle says:

    "we’ve always worked within the system to enact change, not outside of it or subverted it, but went with the tools give to us within the law."I’m just wondering how confident you are with that statement. I get your point. But a strong argument could be made to the contrary."By any means neccesary" comes to mind…….

  5. Monica says:

    I can only speak for myself. I’m a flag waver and come from a family of flag wavers. When I think about my family members who volunteered for military service and excelled, I’m proud to be an American. When I think about the foreign graduate students who put up with all kinds of crap, just for the privilege to study in this country and I know I’m blessed to be a US citizen.Every time I vote and pay my taxes and pursue my dreams, I know that "only in America" is not just a phrase that Don King popularized, it’s a reality.Sadly, too many of us didn’t realize that until Nov 4 last year.

  6. tired of folks questioning Black folks’ patriotism. Black folks, from where I sit, are the TRUEST Americans, because we have fought FOR this country to live up to its creed. so, I have to roll my eyes at anyone questioning Black folks’ patriotism. waving a flag doesn’t make one a patriot.

  7. SistaOpinion says:

    Co-signing rikyrah…As much as some white Americans want to deny it, this is my country too. Slave and free, my family’s been here for 200 years. I can look at my family tree and point to soldiers going back to World War I. We continue to fight for what this country’s SUPPOSED to be about.

  8. bdsista says:

    cosign sistaop, I am celebrating today by going to Ft. Meade where my girlfriend (a Tuskegee Grad) has a horse farm and is doing pony rides and getting paid (i.e. support a black and women owned business) with my other two girlfriends, one who is in the military and the other a Skegee VET, then going to Bowie and hang out with (mostly) black folks to see the fireworks. I have too many friends who have children in Iraq or Afghanistan or are veterans or have family that are veterans (including Dad a WWII and Korea vet) to not honor them. Yes, its great to be in the DC area with a new president! Time to take July 4th BACK!! However to the Snob’s relief, I am not wearing flag clothing or some horrible amalgamation of red, white and blue. I am patriotic, but not crazy.

  9. dilettante says:

    Those who pulled the patriotism 180 degree turn on their friends and family,…Because while we did change presidents … mmmm, America is still America.That skepticism is valid and well placed, the world US has not changed because of #44.And yet, there is nothing is sadder, or more regressive , than to see ‘us’ continually marginalize ourselves. Every one hops off the damn boat and becomes American. For sure, they were/are allowed /encouraged to in a way that never happen for us. But there is an amount of agency ownership we have to take. So I’m not talking about how others see us, but how we see ourselves.A school age child ,for whom President Obama, and his family, will be the first , 1st family they’ll have memories of, should indeed have a slightly differently calibration about the world/ the US, than the generation before. We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before.

  10. Spinster says:

    "But if you could just barely tolerate the Fourth last year and you’re high as a kite this year I’m going to make fun of you. I just am. I think you’re hilariously corny. Because while we did change presidents … mmmm, America is still America. Love it accordingly."Right on Danielle. This said it all. Excellent post.

  11. swiv says:

    if anything, blacks are more patriotic. the US military has a disproportionate amount of blacks per the population.

  12. Anarchy1 says:

    @SwivMost join the military for the benefits…monetary benefits and education…that are unavailable to them in their own cities and states…and made available only if they can dodge bullets…in Iraq/ Afghanistan and their own cities and states. I’m not sure military service is the full measure of one’s devotion to country. I think it may be more about devotion to family and self. But in other news, my cousin put his foot in them ribs!

  13. justventing says:

    More blacks fought for the British than for the colonists (approximately 20000 for the British compared to 5000 for the colonists). So given that fact and the earlier end of slavery in the British Empire isn’t it plain stupid to celebrate something that your ancestors were against and was to their detriment?

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