The Curious Case of the Negro Patriot
Patriotism for the Black American can be a tricky concept, but that has never stopped us from showing off our national pride. On every national holiday and during every Olympics, unabashed displays of pride resonate throughout Black communities across the country. These particular 2016 Rio Olympics were especially inspiring and joyous for us, as Black Americans (women most notably) not only achieved gold medals in sports more typically associated with lower requirements for access: Basketball, Track, and Field, but also in events associated with privilege such as Gymnastics and Swimming, to our wonderfully pleasant surprise. That’s why you often see Black Americans gushing with so much support over our Black Olympians, especially the ones competing traditionally “white” events.
While these Olympic games made patriotism an easy choice, our national pride often comes loaded with mixed emotions.
While a good proportion of Americans feel at least a distant kinship to some foreign land, most Black Americans find themselves in a unique cultural situation. For us descendants of slaves, the nation-specific knowledge of our true ancestral backgrounds was robbed from us many generations ago. America is all we’ve ever known, and it’s all we’ve ever had. That’s the easy part of the patriotism equation: we want the only place we can truly call home to be considered as the world renowned Best in every category.
The more difficult aspect of patriotism comes with who else tends to share our intensive outward expression of national pride. Somewhere along the way, extreme patriotism became associated with social conservatism. Social conservatism, that goes beyond a desire to simply uphold traditional values, but also can directly work against the progression of minorities of all types in society. This is where the lines get blurred and borders become fuzzy. For more reasons than just common citizenship, many families and communities of all races have every reason to proudly exhibit Old Glory. We all are likely to have one, if not multiple, family members who have or are currently serving in our military. Pride in our nation and our cumulative accomplishments over such a short period of time is natural. It’s just that frankly, the Venn diagram of people who most proudly boast the American flag and people who are most likely to call me a Nigger behind my back, in passing, or on social media, overlaps a significant amount.
These are the conundrums Black Americans have faced since our emergence as free citizens in this country. Our oxymoronic existence in American society shapes our sometimes-sporadic oscillations between immense anger towards our country in one minute and jubilant pride in the next. At the end of the day, it’s always America and its citizens of all colors of whom we’re most proud and for whom we will always root. A dark-faced athlete from another country may also get a quiet nod of approval on occasion, but our true loyalty remains ever steady. Fervently clapping, screaming, and sometimes crying, Black Americans across the country beam with pride as we cheer for the red, white, and blue.