You are not an authority on African-American culture & your ignorance is showing

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This is one of those stories when I realize how much white supremacy permeates American society, even in a racially-diverse, seemingly liberal area like the San Francisco Bay Area. By now, most people have heard about or seen the video footage of a black female employee at San Francisco State University going off on a white male student for wearing dreadlocks. She called it ‘cultural appropriation’ and it has unleashed a firestorm of criticism against the black woman for calling it appropriation and accusing her of assault. ‘Cultural appropriation’ is not about creating something first or being allowed to wear something of another culture. It is about how people of certain groups suffer discrimination for wearing a staple of their culture, while other groups wear the same thing as a fashion statement or ‘to look cool’ and it is called beautiful.

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Let me point out, the woman in the video should not have put her hands on him at all. But her argument is valid and one that should be listened to. The male student, whose name is Cory Goldstein, was interviewed by Golden Gate Xpress where he attempted to explain himself and in the process displayed his ignorance and insensitivity to African-American cultural history. Mr. Goldstein is correct that dreadlocks are not solely a staple of African/African-American culture. Dreadlocks are an ancient style seen in Hinduism, Buddhism, ancient Greece, pre-colonial Africa, the list goes on.

But Mr. Goldstein is completely ignorant to the history of black Americans wearing dreadlocks and other natural styles in North America. He incorrectly states that wearing dreadlocks is not a staple to African-American culture, calling it ‘something they just wear on their heads’, further establishing his ignorance to the cultural hierarchy that led black Americans to wear dreadlocks and other styles to embrace our hair’s natural texture, rather than manipulating it with heat and chemicals, for the sake of being acceptable in American society.

Dreadlocks, commonly associated with Bob Marley and later Whoopi Goldberg became popular among black Americans during the 1970s-1980s as a way of us accepting the naturally curly texture of our hair. During slavery and after Emancipation in 1865, eurocentric features such as white skin and straight hair were held up as the most desirable features–and still are today. For a century after slavery, black hair care revolved around making our hair straight as possible, despite the damage in doing so. Dreadlocks, twists, braids and other natural styles symbolize African-Americans realizing that our hair is beautiful kinks, curls and all, in spite of the omnipresent messages that it’s not. However, embracing our natural texture comes with a price.

 

Many comments defend Mr. Goldstein’s right to wear his hair the way he wants, say that it is beautiful and it is not appropriation. But for black men and women in the work place, wearing our hair in locs, braids, twists or any natural hair style can mean we do not get the job we’re more than qualified for, or we do not get the promotion we worked extra hard to get. Until the courts stepped in, it meant we might be subject to extra security at the airport. Mr. Goldstein will not incur any penalty in the workplace nor elsewhere for wearing his hair the way he does. But put a black man or woman in his place and there is a double standard in the perception of white people wearing dreadlocks versus black people wearing dreadlocks.Whoopi_Goldberg_Cannes_1992-1

That is why Mr. Goldstein wearing dreadlocks is ‘cultural appropriation.’ Dreadlocks are not ‘beautiful’ only when white people wear them. They are always beautiful. You just wouldn’t know it from the many black men and women who suffer from prejudice on the job and elsewhere.

Mr. Goldstein says that “differences should not separate us but bring us closer together.” I agree differences should not divide us, but since the 18th century when Europeans created the terms ‘black’ and ‘white’ to categorize people and establish a racial hierarchy with white people at the top and black people at the bottom, differences have divided us. These differences were present at the nascent of the United States’ birth, permeating every aspect of American life, continuing to this day. ‘Differences’ are what led people to defend Mr. Goldstein and demonize the black woman in the video, call her a racist and publish her name, address and phone number on the Internet, despite numerous students confirming that Mr. Goldstein initiated the confrontation by calling her a b– when she handed him a flyer. Differences divide us when people say black women culturally appropriate white culture by straightening our hair, ignoring the fact that mainstream American culture tells us that straight hair is ‘good hair’ and tightly coiled hair is ‘bad hair’.

It goes without saying that Mr. Goldstein is not an authority on what is or is not ‘cultural appropriation.’ He does not get to decide what is a staple of black American culture. WE [black Americans] do! The audacity of Mr. Goldstein to liken African-Americans embracing the hair God blessed us with to “something they just wear on their heads” and a fashion statement “just like the bindi” which by the way, is NOT a fashion statement either, see #savethebindi, reflects his idiocy toward black and brown cultures and the double standard of white supremacy.

 

 

#OscarSoWhite yet again but ignores the larger problem

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Another Oscar season, another reminder of how far Hollywood has to go in recognizing talent in movie-making. For the second year in a row, Twitter-users have used the hastag #Oscarsowhite to express their anger and frustration that the most prestigious movie-making awards show continues to ignore excellence by people of color.

It is no secret, the people who make the decisions on which actors and movies to nominate are old, white men who are so blinded by age and race, they refuse to recognize excellence in acting or movie-making because the actors and characters do not look like them. They refuse to recognize that the United States is rapidly browning and younger generations of African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans and Middle Easterners want to see characters on screen that look like us and for Hollywood to recognize our talent. The fact that the current Academy President is black woman, Cheryl Boone is a bad joke that no one is falling for.

But this only addresses part of the problem. In principle I share the outrage in yet again another blatant exclusion of people of color. But in actuality there is a bigger problem. In the Academy’s defense, they cannot nominate what does not exist and while the success of Creed, Straight Outta Compton and Beasts of No Nation should be recognized, Hollywood has become creatively stagnant. Movie studios will not take risks with the stories they green light.

This is bad enough for movies regardless of race, but for movies with black casts, this means only stories that do not threaten the eurocentric dominion over powerful storytelling are green-lit. It’s why a movie like “The Forest” gets green-lit, which sensationalizes suicides in the Aokigahara forest near Mt. Fuji in Japan with a white cast gets green lit, but Danny Glover struggles to get funding for a movie about Toussaint and the Haitian Revolution because the movie does not have any ‘white heroes.’ Ideally, movie theaters should be filled with stories of all kinds about people of color, about black, Latino, Asian and Native American empowerment, stories written, produced, directed and starred in by us, sans the necessary ‘white hero.’ People of color make up nearly half of moviegoers, it is ludicrous that the movie industry excludes our stories.

Social media is ripe with articles and blogs listing the many movies with predominantly black casts and black and Latino actors that deserved an Oscar nod. Jada Pinkett Smith even debated boycotting the Oscars altogether. There should be no question about this. If you do not like what you see (or don’t see) on screen, do not watch. If hardly anyone watches the 2016 Oscars, that would send a huge message–in the form of lost money.

Frankly, I have not gotten excited about the Oscars since 2003 when the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King FINALLY got the Oscar for Best Picture that it should have been awarded in 2001 and 2002. One of my dream movies is a franchise of fantasy/sci-fi movies with a black cast. So until we address the death of creativity in Hollywood right now, #Oscarssowhite feels extraneous.

Black Millennials & America’s Choice 2016

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On Monday morning I read a very good article on the New York Times that sums up my indifference to the Democratic party going into 2016. As a black Millennial, I feel that neither Bernie Sanders or Hilary Clinton is really speaking to me as a part of that voting bloc–one that the Democrats cannot afford to lose, whether they realize it or not.

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If 2012 proved anything, it is that when black Americans vote, our vote can make a difference. After Obama was re-elected, article after article talked about how critical the black vote was to his re-election. But what those articles did not point out (of if they did, I did not see them) was that it was younger voters that were so critical to the Democrats keeping the White House. Obama’s rise to political prominence brought a new wave of engaged black voters to the polls. In 2008, 20% of first-time voters were black and of those, 70% were under 30. Four years later black voters proved critical for Obama winning seven key states, including Ohio, Florida and Virgina. Of the black voters who cast a ballot, nearly half were under 45 years old.

Now, in the first post-Obama presidential election, the Democrats are in serious danger of losing this bloc. Not to the Republicans but to indifference, and historically a higher voter turnout favors the Democrats. I do not want a Republican to become the next President of the United States, but I also don’t feel either Bernie nor Hilary deserve my vote. If the election were held today I would likely stay home.

What Bernie and Hilary do not understand is, the old tactics of wooing black voters does not work anymore. Mentioning your marches with Martin Luther Kind Jr., meeting with Civil Rights leaders of his era or photo ops with black celebrities will not work. Black millennials realize the Civil Rights movement did not do what we were taught in elementary school to believe it did. If it did, we would not be where we are now. We want real, concrete solutions to stop black men and women being gunned down by the police like animals, to reduce the racial gap between unemployed black and white millennials, particularly the educated and real criminal justice reform. But neither Hilary nor Bernie are responding to this at all.

My problem with Hilary is she’s relying on the Clinton name to win her black support. Famously touted as the “first black president” before Barack Obama entered the presidential race in 2008, now his policies during his presidency have come under criticism, particularly the “three-strikes law” that the former president admits regret signing into law because it made the problem of mass incarceration worse, especially for African-American males. Apologizing now frankly is too little, too late and doesn’t illustrate why black Millennials should trust her as Chief Executive.

Aside from his concerning stance on gun control, my problem with Bernie is he thinks his record automatically earns him black support. Let’s look at his record shall we? Bernie Sanders is known for being a champion of economic justice. Makes sense since that he’s a socialist. But socialism does not preclude racism, look at Adolf Hitler. Now I don’t believe that Bernie Sanders is racist but I think he fundamentally misunderstands racism at its core and always has. For African-Americans, Native Americans, Latinos and Asians, racial injustice is the root of economic injustice, not the inverse. Racism cannot be cured by making the pot bigger for everybody. The United States was literally conceived in racism. When the country became the largest economy in the world, black people (and Native Americans) were still economically marginalized, something ignored to this day. In refusing to acknowledge this, Bernie Sanders is not much better than the Republicans in black Millennials’ eyes.

With both Hilary and Bernie the disconnect is clear. Neither candidate understands that what brought African-Americans to the polls come Election Day will not work in 2016. We’ll just stay home which makes it more likely that a Republican will win the White House.

‘Black Lives Matter’ activists targeting Bernie Sanders: Agitantism or Democracy at work?

Over the weekend, ‘Black Lives Matter’ activists interrupted a second Bernie Sanders event, this time not allowing him to speak. While I appreciate the anger and passion of these activists, my first reaction was disappointment. I am still side-eyeing Sanders for his reaction at the Netroots Nation conference in Arizona last month but of all the Democratic candidates, Sanders is not at the top of my list for questioning about issues affecting African-Americans. On the other hand, it is mistake to assume leftist or progressivism innately benefits African-Americans.

After the interrupted Netroots Conference, many of Sanders’ white supporters (and some nonwhites) harshly criticized African-Americans for questioning Sanders’ commitment to racial justice because of his long history on civil rights and his open socialism.

With all due respect to Sanders’ record, as a young African-American voter, it means almost nothing to me right now. Because if the Civil Rights Movement solved everything, we would not be in the situation we are in, half a century later. Second, let’s look at Bernie Sanders’ record. Everyone knows he walked with MLK Jr, was present at his ‘I have a dream speech’ and has fought for civil rights for 50 years, including his career in the US Congress. But Sanders’ believes fixing income inequality will inherently resolve racial inequality–something that racial justice advocates strongly disagree with. Sanders clashed with his fellow activists in the 1960s over race being its own separate issue, and he is clashing with the present activist generation today for the same reason.

For African-Americans and other peoples of color, racism is the disease and economic inequality is the symptom. To deny this reality is to deny the crux of American history. America is a nation that was conceived in racism–this land was stolen from the Native Americans and built on the backs of American slaves. Jim Crow continued the systemic white privilege that affects American life to this day.

Third, a socialist US president will not inherently solve racism. Being a socialist does not preclude one from being a racist. Adolf Hitler was a socialist too and we know how he felt about race. The fact that many whites on the left do not understand that racism in America must be resolved as a separate issue is telling because it shows just how far the divide is between blacks and whites across the political spectrum.

It is no secret, voters of color will be critical in this election. African-Americans are historically a Democratic stronghold. But younger black voters are rightly questioning our loyalty to a party that has not produced much to our benefit. Neither Bernie Sanders nor Hilary Clinton, or any Democratic candidate is entitled to the black vote. They must earn it, and that is the underlying message.

Until the Netroots Nation conference, Sanders’s support was confined largely to whites. If he has any shot at the Democratic nomination let alone the general election, that has to change.

Yesterday morning I woke up to news that Sanders unveiled a platform on racial justice and his campaign hired Symone Sanders (no relation) an African-American criminal justice activist as its national press secretary. Later that day, racism was the first issue addressed Sanders’ 27,000 strong event at Staples’ Center.

So while many in Sanders’ base criticize BLM’s actions, it’s produced results. Little by little, Sanders is adjusting his platform. Isn’t this how democracy republicanism is supposed to work–the people dictate what the candidates represent?

On a personal note, I’d like to see Hilary Clinton and other candidates be the target of BLM’s fervor now. But BLM’s testy relationship with Sanders reveals a divide between whites and African-Americans, even among well-meaning whites.

America must come to terms with its racial history. Electing a president with an racially conscious platform is only the first step. But fully confronting racism involves whites and other groups discussing the uncomfortable. If this happens, America democracy republicanism will be better off for it.

Fitting Human Rights Into The Promise Of America

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By now the video of Walter Scott’s shooting death by police in North Charleston, South Carolina has reached most Americans and even overseas. Before its release many, not least, the Charleston Police Department, believed Officer Slager’s version of events even thought it is clear that he blatantly lied, even placed an object on his dead body. Were it not for the video, Walter Scott, like too many African-American men and women gunned down by police, would have been blamed for his own death. The North Charleston PD, like so many police departments across the country were quick to believe their officer and blame the victim who could no longer speak for himself. It is encouraging that Officer Michael T. Slager is charged with 1st degree murder. It is infuriating that it took a cell phone video to even get a him charged.

Given recent history, there is much skepticism, that despite the video evidence, Officer Slager will become one more police officer who will walk for taking another civilian’s life, and add to the long list of travesties of our justice system. Such stories are all too common. African-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans, who die in altercations with police at higher rates than other groups, but do receive not national news coverage. Police officers all too often are given only a slap on the wrist.

Black Lives Matter Black FridayUnited States’ politicians, even President Obama, during discussions last weekend concerning the framework for securing a nuclear arms deal with Iran, repeatedly referred to Iran as the largest state sponsor of terrorism. Iran is far from a perfect country but this is hypocritical for two reasons:

1) Saudi Arabia remains ruled by an absolute monarchy that is incredibly oppressive to its citizens. Yet the United States touts it as our closest Arab ally. Saudi Arabia is a country that prevents women from driving and conducts public beheadings. The only  difference between Iran and Saudi Arabia is ideology. One we like; the other we do not.

2)  As an African-American, my heart aches when hearing these stories. As an American, I grow more and more irritated by how we tout ourselves as a beacon of human rights, yet proceed to criticize other countries for their human rights abuses while at the same time offer excuses for other countries who ignore the human rights of their citizens. Watching American family after family grieve for their loved one, and the U.S. justice system fail time and again to make right and offer amends for incorrect and heinous actions leaves me numb. It is mendacious for us as Americans to believe our country is a safe haven for justice and human rights when clear and convincing evidence demonstrates we are not.

Critics of the deal with Iran question how President Obama could negotiate with a country that calls for Israel’s destruction. Without question this is unacceptable, from any country. But name one harm Iran has actually committed against Israel. To that end, contrast Iran’s anti-Israel rhetoric coupled with inaction, to the actions of the United States, a country that prides itself on holding “truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal… endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights… Life, Liberty…”, and maintains a justice system that while parading, ‘Equality Under the Law’ while metes out injustice to too many Americans. With each news story detailing an African-American being gunned down by police, and resulting in no retribution for taking another life, America’s rhetoric of guaranteeing its citizens freedom, liberty and justice seems more like a facade … and the world is watching.

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World wide images and footage of protesters in Ferguson, Missouri being teargassed and attacked by police armed with more weaponry than American troops who invaded Iraq & Afghanistan, while chanting ‘BlackLivesMatter’ brought down the cloak of idealism many around the world had of the United States and what it means to be an American citizen. Police killing Americans, particularly of color, is nothing new. Change through political action is necessary, no doubt, but fitting human rights into the promise of America requires acknowledgment that the original promise was made to a few, namely white males.

Nearly 250 years into America’s history that status quo remains little changed. Still many politicians ignore the inequalities in American domestic life, and exhibit the same condescension toward other countries in our foreign policy. If a government fails to do right by its own citizens, what evidence is there to suggest it will behave any differently in its foreign relations? Iran’s president Hossan Rouhani came to the negotiating table not out of national pride but because of his promise to his electorate to ease crippling economic sanctions and end Iran’s isolation in the international community. Iran possesses oil/gas reserves and other important minerals, which countries such as China, Japan, South Korea and India are eager to purchase.

This raises the question why American politicians are adamantly working against President Obama’s attempt to create constructive relations with Iran when much of the international community, including our allies see the economic potential in doing so? With the global economy still in recovery, are our politicians truly concerned with the best interest of the American people, or their personal agendas? The same question applies to race relations and police brutality in the United States. The Department of Justice’s report on the Ferguson police department says that police were targeting African-Americans for petty infractions, fining them and then using the money to fund their municipality. Do politicians see the value in protecting all American life, or just about lining their pockets?

If the Islamic Republic of Iran can reach a tentative ‘meeting of the minds’ with the United States considering the mistrust between our two countries–an agreement that if implemented stands to benefit the Iranian people, allowing access to the basic necessities we in the West take for granted, such as food, medicine & electricity, it is more than reasonable to demand that the politicians who pledged to serve the citizens of “the greatest country the world has ever seen”, take action that benefits all Americans, not just the privileged.

Ferguson and What It Says About American “democracy”

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Like many Americans I am outraged by the Grand Jury decision in Missouri not to indict Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown. But I was not surprised. What is surprising is how inhumanely Prosecutor McCulloch mishandled this. From his announcement alone it is clear he saw Darren Wilson as the victim, not Michael Brown. From a quick search of his professional record it is clear McCulloch never should have been anywhere near this case. He never wanted an indictment and all but said so. Beyond the fact that nothing will be done about Michael Brown’s death, the way the state of Missouri has handled it is nothing short of disgusting.

But what happens now? What is going on in Ferguson is just a microcosm for very real issues in America: racism and inequality–the assumption made in this country that one’s right to live is determined by skin color. It is an issue that goes all the way back to before America’s birth. Americans of all races are slowly waking up to this fact–and are angry. But what do we do about it? Ferguson has captured the world’s attention. Within the United States people have taken to the streets all across the country including mine, stopping freeways and causing disruption.

Acclaimed professor and intellectual Dr. Marc Lamont Hill said on CNN that “this is what democracy looks like.” With all due respect, I disagree. I’m glad people especially in my generation are so motivated but protests on their own will not change anything. Real change will come when power is in the hands of people truly committed to change. That is what democracy is. People only protest when they are unhappy with the way things are. Yet there is a burgeoning awareness that many in power are not about the people, but their own interests. 38_00392Americans are slowly realizing the country is divided and governed by a political elite that is not concerned with the best interest of the country but overpowering the other and their own self-interest. Earlier this year MSNBC discussed a study by professors at Northwestern and Princeton universities that found that policy decision-making is in the hands of the wealthy and business elite, backed by the US Supreme Court in recent decisions allowing easier political spending, translating to increased political influence of the most affluent at the expense of the majority. It then follows that the US is not a democracy but an oligarchy–power by the few.

Thus, people protesting in the streets is a demand for democracy. It is not democracy in itself. At this point the government does not need the consent of the governed to govern. Policy-makers are not accountable to the people. As long as this remains the case, the situation will remain the same and nothing will change. The militarization of the police will continue and black and brown Americans will be treated as second-class citizens.B1EmrIjCQAER1NM

Ironically, American leaders and citizens alike tout our country as “greatest on the face of the earth” and praise American democracy for championing the principle that every individual is “equal under the law.” But is America really the greatest? Racism and disenfranchisement were the genesis of America’s founding. The land we live on was taken away from the Native Americans and our economic success came on the backs of American slaves–my ancestors. Hundreds of years removed from these atrocities, the status quo remains the same. Clearly the American government does not practice what it preaches. My final question then, is how long will we, the American nation, the people, tolerate being governed by a oligarchy in democracy’s clothing?

Midterm Elections in America–the Morning After

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Yesterday was midterm election day in the United States. Just as many analysts predicted, the Republicans picked up enough seats to gain control of the Senate and retained their hold on the House of Representatives. It is a well known fact that when voter turn out is high, Democrats tend to win. But when voter turnout is low, Republicans are successful. Preventing the loss of the Senate depended on Democrats’ ability to motivate voting blocs that tend to vote Democrat to “get out the vote.”

Herein lies the problem. Midterm elections never produce as high voter turnout as in presidential elections. In his speech this morning President Obama revealed only one-third of the electorate voted yesterday. Unfortunately for the president, the groups that he needed to get to the polls, African-Americans, Latinos, Millennials and women, likely either did not cast a ballot or in the case of women, voted for the GOP; prioritizing a lackluster economy over reproductive issues. After Obama announced he would not use executive action to pass immigration reform until after the midterms, many Latinos were understandably angry at a leader they helped elect precisely because he promised immigration reform. Final numbers have yet to come in but analysts predicted many Latinos would not vote, fed up with Republicans and disappointed in Obama.

African-Americans’ lack of a presence at the polls, is less explainable. Although this morning my social media is full of discussions questioning how African-Americans could not vote, given how our grandparents and great-grandparents fought and died for the right. 25399.previewOthers point out it is our civic duty to vote. My philosophy is that individuals who make a conscious decision not to vote lose the right to complain when they are unhappy with the results. If citizens want change they must use their voice. However for many African-Americans, the political system is broken and many contend that it was never intended to benefit us as a group in the first place. I do not dispute that. If it is proven that Latino voters refrained from voting because of Obama’s broken promise on immigration, it would seem that they have realized this too.

Yesterday a former professor of mine, a registered Independent who admits Democrats are in many ways no better than the Republicans, implored people to vote Democrat because two years of congressional control by the former, would be much worse than the latter. In this scenario the Democrats are the lesser of two evils. But from talking to Americans of all races, many are tired of having to always choose between the lesser of two evils because the line between them rapidly diminishing. The political situation in the United States today is one of anger, frustration and disappointment, transforming into apathy, indifference and pessimism. Voting for one party to prevent the other party from gaining power is no longer enough to motivate voters to show up at the polls.LyndonJohnson_signs_Voting_Rights_Act_of_1965

And as much as I believe that citizens have a duty to use their voice, I also believe that citizens have a right not to participate in a political system that only benefits those in power, rather than the people they serve.

As much as Americans are disillusioned by the president, the Republicans do not fare much better. When the race for 2016 begins, they will have a much bigger battle to fight if they want to take the White House. The Republicans cannot continue as a major political party without expanding their base beyond older white men. Some Republicans like Rand Paul and unsuccessful California gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari are reaching out to African-Americans and Latinos, keenly aware of this fact. But whether these efforts will translate into presidential votes remains to be seen.

ETA: On CNN this afternoon, John King highlighted that the Republicans’ victory yesterday does not mean the country ‘loves’ them. Majorities of Republicans in GOP controlled states want a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants and a higher minimum wage unlike many GOP lawmakers.

In the aftermath of Ferguson: How do African-Americans reconcile love for their country with the reality of being black in America?

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The situation in Ferguson has me thinking about what my nationality as an American means to me.  Does it mean anything to me?  Should it mean anything to me?  And if so, how do I reconcile any pride I may or may not have in being American with the history of my country devaluing myself and those who came before me and the reality that more than 200 years later, my country still does not value me as more than 3/5 human, let alone a citizen whose roots in this country extend to its beginnings?  My heritage is part of the American heritage.  I am descended from those who literally built this country from the ground up but this is not recognized, by the government nor my fellow Americans.

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I receive constant reminders everyday from multiple outlets that I and those I share this heritage with are not as important to my country because of the color of our skin.  So is there a place for patriotism despite this?  And if so, how far does my patriotism go?  Do I see my country in the most favorable light? Or do I love my country despite its faults?  Do I love what my country is now or what it could be in the future?

Whether I feel patriotism or not, the reality is I am American.  No matter what I will never be able to divorce myself from that fact, not just because it is where I come from but my being American affects my perspective, my behavior and my outlook.  Being American, just like any nationality affects the way we see things.  At no time do I feel this more than when I travel.  But awareness that I am American does not automatically translate into love for a country that assesses it’s citizens worth by their skin color.

Some say “no country is perfect” “there is racism everywhere,” “love what our country can be”, “fight for the change you want”.  Indeed no country is perfect, there is racism everywhere and there is dignity in fighting for the change you want, loving your country enough to fight for what it can be in the future.  And many Americans, black, white, Hispanic and Asian have done so, and sacrificed their lives for it.

But no other country holds itself as the “greatest country in the world”, no other country holds itself as the paragon for perfection and attempts to use this “perfection” to dictate how other countries conduct themselves while committing the very wrongs other nations are criticized for.

Within our nation, contradictions abound reveal America’s dubious and sometimes twisted nature.  The United States remains one of the largest economies in the world, with more resources than most yet our government literally functions on keeping certain people down based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, even as other countries make strides in all these areas–yet we claim we are the best.  The phrase “freedom and justice for all” remains one of the cornerstones of the American way yet children are put on trial for their own murders–as if to say they might have deserved it.  But it is not just the government.  The same indifference exhibited by the government exists with the people.  Yes the killing of Michael Brown has outraged Americans of all races, but it has also highlighted the racial division that still plagues us.

This is not to say patriotism and the awareness of a country’s problems are mutually exclusive.  Other nationalities may be more or less patriotic than Americans but American patriotism combines ordinary love for a country with the belief that we are unmatched in liberty, morality and decency when what has happened in Ferguson proves anything but.  A further reality is that Ferguson, Missouri is just a microcosm for America’s state on its lack of reconciliation with its layered heritage.  Racism no matter the form, is repugnant and morally dangerous.  But in no other country does it cost an individual his or her life, all while the country holds itself as an epitome for goodness with no room for self-reflection.

I respect the contributions of those who’ve given their lives in hopes that future generations might live a better life than previous generations but I refuse to sacrifice my life or that of those close to me for an ideal that might come to fruition tomorrow when devaluation as it exists in America could be fatal today.  Especially as other countries evidence the obvious, that the United States is NOT the greatest nation in the world.

So if patriotism means that I hold my country as the greatest on earth, even while it fatally devalues me and those who share my heritage then no.  I am not patriotic and to be so under these circumstances is lunacy.  But I acknowledge who I am as an American citizen and the lens it gives me to see the world.  I take pride in my heritage as someone descended from those who built this country.

Whether my country does or not.

Analyzing ‘The War to End All Wars’ as an American

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The United States does not pay much attention to World War One.  World War Two receives most of the attention in history books and all the attention in Hollywood.  Even in the rare event that World War One is discussed, it is treated as a side issue or an antecedent to World War Two, which it is, but this is a simplistic approach to the global conflict which shaped the world in which we live.  The American view of the Great War focuses on American neutrality, Woodrow Wilson’s desire to help Britain but putting that desire aside for the sake popular opinion and intervention in 1917.

ImageThe History Channel documentary ‘World Wars’ is a good example of how we a nation views World War One.  It was entertaining to see dramatizations of pivotal moments that shaped the times but the coverage of World War One began with Adolf Hitler’s life as a struggling artist and rejection by the Austrian army.  The bulk of World War One focused on American figures, with the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and Battles of Gallipoli and the Somme almost as afterthoughts.  There was no coverage on the build up to war following the assassination, no analysis of figures other than those who became important in World War Two, and the Russian Revolution was mentioned only to establish the birth of the Soviet Union.

The American perspective of World War One is not wrong, but it is incomplete.  As the same dynamics repeat themselves today and the world wonders if we are heading toward another global conflict, for Americans to really understand this part of history beyond where we came in is imperative to prevent us as a nation from repeating the same mistakes as 100 years ago.  After all, those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.