It is hard to be a patriotic African American these days. With Team USA playing Belgium later today in the World Cup, there will be an exciting show of patriotism from Americans all over the world. My favorite part of this world cup has been #BlackTwitter showing it's Red, White, and Blue pride. I really thought I was the only Black person who liked America for a while. I've been very vociferous about my allegiance and love of my country, and because of it I've been subject to criticism and mockery, which has come in two forms.
My girlfriend and I often get into heated discussions about absolutely nothing. Recently I was espousing why I have a bit of a loathe-on for Europe, Nutella, and Soccer, not necessarily in that order. I spoke about why I dislike the French as a concept, a nation, and a national team, when she made the observation that on this subject I sound very nationalistic, like a Republican. This statement angered me greatly for two reasons; 1. I despise Republicans and 2. she was right. One of the biggest tricks the Republican party ever pulled was complete and absolute appropriation of Patriotism. In the 10 years post-9/11 conservatives all over the country made it seem like if you did not support them and the “War on Terror”, you were worse than a Communist. To this day it seems nearly impossible to be proud of the United States without sounding like a gun-toting toothless redneck, or Ann Coulter. Worse they blurred the lines between patriotism (pride in one's country) and nationalism (a belief in the inherent superiority of one's country over all others.) Patriotism leads to awesome photoshopped pics of Abraham Lincoln riding a bear with an eagle on his shoulder. Nationalism leads to World Wars. It's a simple, but vitally important distinction.
I blame the Democrats for this. Were they not so spineless as to let conservatives appropriate patriotism it would not sound so weird when I talk about how rabidly pro-American I am. Even in my own head when I talk about views that I’ve held my entire life, it sounds funny. When I talk about how I love America I feel like Rush Limbaugh has hacked into my thoughts and is using me as a mouthpiece. It's a terrible feeling because one should never have to feel like a fat, slimy, conservative radio talk show host just for loving their country. Being a patriotic Liberal feels strange because of the company it puts you in. We've grown to expect a certain amount of xenophobia and flag-waving from conservatives, but not from a Black Liberal from the suburbs of New Jersey.
In the last week another phenomenon has presented itself to me that has made me question my patriotism. As I've said, watching the World Cup and being on Twitter has been nothing short of spectacularly entertaining, especially when the USA is playing. The memes and comments from #BlackTwitter have been awesome. But another faction has reared it's head lately, a faction I've seen referred to as #HotepTwitter or The Fun Police. Basically it's a group of Black people who like to remind us that hey, the US Government hasn't always been so kind to Black people. Ya know what? I'm aware, thank you very much. I never try to defend the US because a lot of what the US has done is indefensible. The very reason I am here typing this blog is because of kidnapping, rape, torture, and slavery. However, the reason why I am able to sit here and type, the reason I can read and write and hold an advanced degree and earn money and walk around in public with a girlfriend who is not Black is because of African Americans. The reason why most of us can enjoy and complain about our #FirstWorldProblems is because of African Americans. As much as we hate what some Americans have done TO us (as Black people) we have to love and respect what other Americans (African Americans) have done FOR us.
I'm patriotic for many reasons, the first and foremost being that I am as American as it gets. Physically speaking I am most definitely of African origin, there is no getting around that fact. And I wouldn't want to honestly; I love being Black, it's arguably the greatest thing about me. Beyond those physical traits I am in no way African. For one thing, I can't trace my lineage to any specific African country (for obvious reasons). I don't have an African language or culture to investigate and learn about. Like most African Americans my roots probably go back to West Africa, but beyond that I cannot say. But I am most definitely American. I have an American mindset and the American superiority complex (augmented by my NJ superiority complex, I'm damned near insufferable.) I am overly proud of where I come from. I'm what the terrorists hate about us. I love excess and dreaming big and shooting for the stars and every other cliché you can think of. I am consumerist and love money and things and freedom of speech. I read the Bill of Rights and the Constitution for fun. As Denis Leary said I love football and porno and books about war. I like girls in bikinis and action movies were there are more bullets fired than words spoken. I HATE NUTELLA. I like violent cartoons. I like muscle cars that have 400 hp and get 15 miles to the gallon. I like engines the size of a 1 bedroom ranch house. I do not truck with the metric system. I buy most of my shirts from Wal-Mart and, for the most part, I don't care about soccer. FOOTBALL is FOOTBALL and futbol is soccer. That's the way God and Man intended it to be. I am American. I am a proud resident of New Jersey, and for me to try to claim otherwise would be fraudulent.
I believe to be Black in America and to distance yourself from that is an insult to the generations of Black people who fought and died for all we have today. Our ancestors did all they could to make sure that their children would have a better life than they did. The reason you as an African American can voice your opinion and have the freedom to leave the country if you want to is because of Black people. We built this country and today every single one of us, from Barack Obama to Lil Wayne benefit from this. Our blood, sweat, and tears are intractably enmeshed in the colors of our flag. I feel that to disavow what America means to me is spitting in the face of every Black person that died to make this country better for Black people. We've fought in every war this country has been in. We have been a part of every branch of government (that bastard Clarence Thomas, unfortunately, counts.) There would be no American culture if it wasn't for us. As much prejudice and discrimination as we face, this is still our country, and that only serves to remind me that this American Experiment is not done, and that this generation needs to do its part to make this a better country for Blacks just as my parents and grandparents did. It's a flawed, bloody, dirty, excessive, racist, prideful, sinful country, but it IS our country. We fought for so long to be recognized as citizens, and now some Black people want to reject this gift that we've been given. What a slap in the face of those who went before us. So yes, today I Believe That We Will Win. Because I'm a proud 'Merican and that's what we do.