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No Country
for Black Men

No Country
for Black Men


John McCain may put his country first, but has America earned that honor?

Maybe if I wasn't keenly aware how black people came to be in the United States to begin with. Perhaps if this country's wealth hadn't come on the backs, labor, and lives of people who look like me. Maybe, just maybe, if all men and women in this country were treated equally and given the same "opportunity to reach their God-given potential," I'd share Sen. John McCain's patriotism and the idea of "country first."

But as a descendant of African slaves who were brought to this country against their will and forced to work for people who looked a lot like Cindy and John McCain, I will never claim America as my country -- let alone put it first.

"Country first" empowered colonists to cross the Atlantic for human cargo, who would be used to build the wealth America so often boasts about -- wealth cultivated in tobacco and cotton fields by the hands of slaves and their descendants. "Country first" forced those same slaves and descendants to adopt a language and a religion that to this day has us praying to a white man with blue eyes for our liberation. "Country first" justified the torture, rape, and death of countless black people.

McCain likes to tout his experience as a prisoner of war. I say, Whoop-de-do. Blacks have been prisoners of a war since the first ship arrived in this country. At least McCain was released at some point; my people are still waiting.

Standing before an almost entirely white audience at the Republican National Convention, McCain said, "I've never lived a day, in good times or bad, that I didn't thank God for the privilege." Well, I've never lived a day, in good times or bad, where I didn't witness the privilege he brags of. It's the advantage that allows presidential candidates to talk about saving the middle class from financial ruin while ignoring the men, women, and children who aren't threatened by foreclosure because they don't have enough money to own a home.

I will never know the feeling of patriotism that McCain and others like him hail. You will never catch me waving this country's flag. While I'm aware that there are blacks--like my grandfather, a World War II veteran--who have bought into this idea of "country first," I'm not one of them. I don't share Pat Buchanan's opinion, voiced this March, that "America has been the best country on earth for black folks." Buchanan went on to explain that it was here in the USA that "600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known." No, I won't get on my knees and thank his God that I am American.

A country is only as good as the people who inhabit it. But this country can't even agree to provide the same basic human rights to everyone who lives here. While politicians get caught up in who was born here, who they don't want to come here, and who is sleeping with whom, I just have to look out of my window and see the man sleeping on the sidewalk in front of the church to be reminded that "country first" has nothing to do with an entire race of people.

Not even Barack Obama's nomination as the Democratic candidate for president has convinced me that America is on the road to change. Check back with me when both parties agree that health care for all--regardless of income, employment, or citizenship--is a top priority. Ask me to reconsider when reparations are made to African-Americans.

At least with Republicans, I know exactly where I stand. As McCain said in his speech, the GOP is "standing up again to the values Americans admire. The party of Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Reagan is going to get back to basics." And those basics were never concerned with the needs of black Americans.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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