I made a mistake by not highlighting this New Yorker profile a couple weeks ago. It tells the story of Alan Rogers a black, gay soldier who's become a rallying point for those seeking the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." When I was reading the profile I kept thinking about how misunderstood African-American patriotism is in this country. Half of it comes from the very human problem of conflating criticism with disloyalty, and then half of it comes from the need to establish an other. The real deal behind defining Barack Obama as "post-racial" or "post-black," is that to accept him as a black man, would cause a crisis of identity for a lot of white people--for if Barack Obama Ivy League grad, brilliant orator, and most importantly unencumbered by racial paranoia is a black man--and seemingly quite comfortable with it--who am I? What is "whiteness" in that context?
But I digress. Alright, not really. That's always been the problem of black patriotism, you see. Because of our outsider status, blacks have been the most consistent agent of change in this country's history. You must understand that this isn't even just about color. The first person to give his life for America was Crispus Attucks, and thus the founding father, in the sense of blood, of this country was a black man. It's true that Frederick Douglass supported the vote for black men over white women--but Douglass was not simply a suffragist, he was the only man of any significance--black or any other color--who even attended the Seneca Falls convention where the movement was born. It's almost unfair to cite Martin Luther King at this point, but suffice to say, to see the Civil Rights Movement merely as an effort to open the doors for blacks is to miss the point.
It's true, as I said yesterday, that oppression isn't, in and of itself, ennobling. But its also true that African-Americans, because their oppression has been so stark and so at odds with the promise and potential of America, have a history of being able to see beyond themselves. It's not the only history mind you, but it's one. From that perspective, Barack Obama really is well within the black tradition, as is Alan Rogers. It is from, one perspective, a statistical fluke that Rogers was black. But from another, not so much.
UPDATE: Stay on topic and keep your cool.