Re:[sixties-l] Re: war and bonding and human nature

From: Jeffrey Blankfort (
Date: Wed Jun 28 2000 - 23:23:07 CUT

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    Sandra Flowers wrote:
    > I am committed to helping my
    > descendants and my students of all ethnicities and the many unschooled
    > young black people I come across to know and understand the history of
    > this nation, its good and its evil aspects. But once one knows that
    > history, what productive response can come from black people's
    > withdrawing from or rejecting everything about life as it's currently
    > lived because of what happened in the past?

    Certainly, I don't think withdrawal is any solution; the question is how
    one participates in society and with what motivation. If it is simply
    to get one's piece of the pie, or share of what the text books and the
    mass media tell us is the American dream (and has anyone wondered why
    their is no British dream, no Brazilian dream, no Chinese dream, no
    Angolan dream,. etc?) then one has clearly separated one's self from
    whatever collective struggle exists to correct the many ills that
    afflict American society. To do the former, particularly for
    non-Euro-Americans, it means overcoming more challenges on every level
    than those facing folks born inheriting white skin priviliges, and
    persons making that choice should not be criticized unless their actions
    set themselves against those electing to participate in the more
    collective struggle.

    This is something that those of us who enjoy the benefit of white skin
    privilege should consider when making value judgements regarding the
    career choices of black Americans, Latinos, etc., who choose a path
    that does not engage them in the struggles that have engaged our
    political interests, even when our interests involve what we believe to
    be the bettering of the conditions of those who have been collectively
    victimized by American racism.
    > It's worth nothing that when African Americans celebrate and catalog
    > their history, they include in that history their long heritage of
    > military service to the United States. In fact, part of the effort of
    > African American history as a discipline is to give credit to those in
    > all areas of American life whom white-written history expunged from
    > the record. So when we talk about genocide, let us remember that
    > historical expunging itself is a form of genocide--cultural and
    > psychological genocide because it asserts that the targeted people
    > made no, or, at best, insignificat, contribution to the nation's
    > history. Is historical expunging an outlived practice? Hardly. Have a
    > chat with some high school friends and see what they've learned in
    > school about ethnic peoples in America.

    Sandra raises a good point here. In fact, one can see that a thorough
    knowledge of the contributions that, in this case, African Americans,
    have made to our society in all its aspects, can be a starting point
    from which young black students can become inspired, not to pursue the
    American dream, but to challenge the restraints that white society has
    placed upon African Americans, that intentionally limit their access to
    that dream.

    > But there's a difference between a continuous presence in the
    > militaristic facet of the nation and in sanctioning oppression. We can
    > no longer cavalierly assert that if you're not part of the solution
    > you're part of the problem, because life has taught us how often we as
    > individual women and men occupy, for one reason or another, a murky
    > position between problem and solution. Similarly, if the only way that
    > black people can free themselves of the taint of American oppression
    > of _all_ kinds, not just militaristic, is by shunning military
    > service, then it's a no-win situation for those black people who
    > believe their presence throughout American life can make a humanizing
    > difference. I think each of us has the right and the responsibility to
    > choose where we want to or feel we can make a difference and take a
    > stand there.

    As it now stands, however, the presence of black or brown soldiers in
    our military does not appear to have had any humanizing effect. Nor can
    it realistically be expected to do so. Soldiers are given orders by
    their superior officers and learn to obey these orders without
    questioning them, "there's not to reason why, there's but to do and
    die," as Tennyson wrote. (At a certain point in the Vietnam War,
    soldiers began killing their officers, which was one of the reasons that
    Washington attempted to bring the war to a speedy conclusion.) What is
    needed is a whole rethinking of our military and a critical public
    debate of the role that it has played in maintaining America's global
    hegemony to the detriment of those countries both within and without our

    Jeff Blankfort

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