Saturday, February 10, 2007

Celebrate Black History: Hug A Black Veteran

(Before we begin, Conseula and I want to say hi to anyone here via Lowcountry Blogs.)

In 1942 the Pittsburgh Courier initiated the Double V campaign. The campaign had two objectives: to achieve victories against the Axis powers abroad, and against racial prejudice at home. This was not the first time African Americans tied full citizenship to military service. During World War I, no less a luminary than W. E. B. Du Bois wrote in the pages of The Crisis, the organ of the NAACP, that blacks should put their domestic grievances aside and to instead focus on the common foe.

Throughout American military history, from the French and Indian War, to our current military adventures in Southwest Asia, African American soldiers have served in uniform. Some rallied to the flag out of patriotic fervor, others, because of the draft, and a few sought to either seek adventure, or learn a marketable trade. All too many joined because in America we equate masculinity and power with physical bravery and physical violence. If these men, who were emasculated everyday of their lives, were able to stand against, and return fire to the French, British, Mexicans, Confederates, Indians, Spanish, Filipinos, Germans, Nazis, Italians, Japanese, North Koreans, Chinese, and North Vietnamese, then surely they were brave men and worthy of our respect.

Over the centuries, millions of African Americans joined the military, marched off to war, killed, died, or were maimed, all with the intention of proving that they were men, and that they deserved all of the rights and privileges of full citizenship. The sad thing is that common respect and courtesy, not to mention civil rights, were their due all along, and instead of receiving the respect and rights that they had thought they'd earned in uniform, too many of them returned to a life of institutional racism.

Today's Black History Minute is devoted to my grandfather August who served in Italy in World War II, my uncles Leonard and August who served respectively in the Merchant Marine, and in the Navy in the same war, to my uncle Smith who served in Viet Nam, and to every black man and woman who was ever called "Nigger" while walking in their hometown while still in uniform.


Conseula said...

Though he's way too modest to include himself in that list,let's not forget Brian served in the 1st and 2nd Ranger Battalions, and the 82nd Airborne in the Army.

claire said...

Thanks Brian, great post. That is a story that needs telling over and over.

Gunfighter said...

I, too, am a veteran.

I sereved as a Marine infantryman in the 2nd Marine Division from 1981 to 1989.

I am the nephew son of a Korean War Veteran, the son of a veteran of our wars in Korea and Vietnam.

I am the younger brother of a veteran. My brother and I have both served our country in combat.

While my father and uncle had to endure being called Nigger, while in uniform (in the 1950's), it never happened to me or my brother.

Good thing, too, because if it had, there would have been a blood bath... and I ain't hardly bs'ing, either.