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.
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.