Friday, July 04, 2008

Black skin and patriotism

I've noticed that the most difficult relationships often involve the deepest love. So has Eugene Robinson:

Eugene Robinson
July 4, 2008

...think about the Buffalo Soldiers and the Tuskegee Airmen. Think about Dorie Miller, who, like so many black sailors in the segregated U.S. Navy of the 1940s, was relegated to kitchen duty – until Pearl Harbor, when Miller rushed up to the deck of the sinking battleship West Virginia, carried wounded sailors to safety and then raked Japanese planes with fire from a heavy machine gun until he ran out of ammunition.

Think about Colin Powell – but also think about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., a former Marine. And consider, as we celebrate Independence Day, how steadfast and complicated black patriotism has always been...

The fact that African-American patriotism is never simple doesn't mean it's in any way halfhearted; to the contrary, complicated relationships tend to be the deepest and strongest. It's a historical fact that black soldiers and sailors who fought overseas in World War II came home to Southern cities where they had to ride in the back of the bus – and that they were angry that the nation for which they had sacrificed would treat them this way. To some whites, I guess, it may seem logical to be suspicious of black patriotism – to believe that anger must somehow temper love of country.

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