Monday, September 25, 2017

Black & White: conflicting views regarding war

Black and white Americans have a different way of understanding and communicating their feelings involving war.
It may be the thing that divides Americans more than anything. White people, to a larger extent, form opinions regarding what it means to be an American based on wars fought to maintain freedom.
Be it the Revolutionary war fought to secure independence, the Civil War fought to prevent the succession of Southern States (among other reasons), two World Wars to protect America’s global agenda or the Vietnam conflict aimed at curtailing the expansion of communism – white Americans view wars as an expression of what it means to be an American.
The American flag symbolizes the lives lost and the will of American’s to stand for democracy. This amplifies a faith rooted in the promises of the Constitution. It’s why their ancestors toiled the journey to come to America. This, in the minds of many, is the home of the brave and free. This is why you stand during the singing of the National Anthem and acknowledge the significance of the red, white and blue.
The anthem and flag conjures memories of family members who lost their lives fighting to secure freedom. Standing affirms the truths they fought to secure. They stand out of respect. They stand to honor the men (no women) who wrote the Constitution and pledged alliance to the flag.
Those ancestors fought the British like David against Goliath. They defeated Hitler and the fascism of Mussolini with a pride that gives reasons to stand and sing. They place hands over their hearts while recounting the lessons learned long ago in elementary school and on Sunday morning at Church.
Many white people love America. The flag and anthem are symbols of a pride deeper than the hypocrisy of America’s history.
Black people struggle to stand. Many do, but it comes with deep consideration involving why it’s acceptable to stand. Standing comes devoid in the type of confidence that white Americans take for granted. White people own America as their home. They know and embrace the promises echoed when they listen to the lyrics. This is their America. This is their flag and Constitution.
Black people make a different pledge. It’s not the truth of the pledge that matters; it’s the hope in the promise that gives them reason to stand.  It’s faith in the Constitution and the memory of their ancestors that propels them to sing. It’s not the truth; its devotion to what can be, should be, when their allegiance kndles the promise of the American dream.
Black America’s history with war is different.
The defeat of the British in the Revolutionary war left them enslaved.
The end of the Civil War created a new system of institutionalized hate.
During World War I, 380,000 black men enlisted in the Army; however, they weren’t fighting to protect America’s freedom. They fought to gain respect.
In 1917, Mississippi Senator James K. Vardaman argued that the return of black veterans would lead to disaster in the South. He warned that once “we impress the negro with the fact that he is defending the flag” and “inflate his untutored soul with military airs,” he said “ it was a short step to the conclusion that “his political rights must be respected.”
Black soldiers did not return with the freedom they fought to protect. Black soldiers were denied benefits and disability pay. In what is known as the Red Summer, anti-black riots erupted across the country. After the war, at least thirteen black veterans were lynched. Numerous others survived beatings, shootings, and whippings. Some were attacked for wearing their uniform in public.
Yet, black people continued to pledge alliance to America. During World War II, 1.2 million black men enlisted in the military. In the beginning, they were barred from combat. Their service was reduced to cleaning the toilets of white officers and other service duties. They were only allowed to fight after too many white soldiers died. Although they served their country, they were forbidden from eating in restaurants open to serving German prisoners of war.
When they returned from war, they were attacked on the buses and trains that transported them home. They were denied the benefits of the G.I Bill which would have given them mortgage assistance, college tuition and business loans.
Then there’s the Vietnam conflict
The front-line troops in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos were disproportionately black. Many returned home psychologically scarred. They were poorly treated by the Veterans Affairs Department. More than 200,000 left the military with less than honorable discharges.
Some were reprimanded for giving the black power salute. Some were punished for refusing to go on riot patrol duty in the United States after returning from war. Because of poor discharge records, many black soldiers failed to qualify for benefits.
How do you stand for a country that has never stood for you? You do so because of the promise of the American Constitution.
You don’t do so after being forced, punished or shamed into standing.
You take a knee because it’s your right as an American.
You stand because you believe America is still worth standing for, even when everything around you says don’t stand.
But, standing doesn’t mean the same as it does for many white Americans. The flag and the National Anthem don’t mean the same thing. Rather than being symbols of freedom and unity, they represent the duplicity inherent in each word we sing. Yes, even the song points to the massive pretense we claim when we sing.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.
The left out verse is a reminder of the intent of those who crafted the Constitution – the death of slaves who attempted to run away.
As much as white Americans yearn for the end of conversations involving our history, you can’t run away from the truth related to divergent perspectives regarding that history.
White people are proud of the flag, the song and the history.
Black people are still fighting to find meaning beyond the words we sing.
My country tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died!
Land of the Pilgrim's pride!
From every mountain side,
Let freedom ring!
Not if you are black.

Thus, what’s wrong with knelling while you wait for reasons to stand?


  1. This is great. May I share it, with attribution?

  2. Thank you, Carl. This is helpful.

    Part of the reason many white people do not understand the refusal to stand for the anthem is because many white people do not grasp the magnitude and regularity of discrimination against black people. They see discrimination, not in terms of a system or a culture, but in terms of a series of individual and isolated events, particularly those events that are extreme and overt.

    I believe your article will help us all.

  3. Kneeling while you wait works for me, Reverend Kenney! It is written, "They that wait SHALL renew their strength . . . .