I would start this off by saying some shit like “I love my country, but…” That’s probably not true. At least not in any relevant proportion to other countries or things. I’m in a non-hierarchical polyamorous relationship with the United States, Spain, Mexico, Prague, Costa Rica, the Peruvian Amazon and a bunch of other places I haven’t even been to yet.
Got my eye on you, India.
That being said I’m still in the Army, for purposes wholly unrelated to patriotism, and sometimes that makes me feel entirely alone. Depending on where I am, American flags and flag related paraphernalia either annoy or terrify me. It was never an accident that the more patriotic the locale, the more likely my Blackness would be a problem. Patriotism and Whiteness are blood brothers after all.
We all laughed when that flag adorned Mississippi bar, with patrons rocking all sorts of tasteless American Flag gear, told me that I couldn’t enter the establishment. It was kind of funny. That kind of blatant racist shit that millennials think only happens in movies.
It’s problematic though how often the flag–to say nothing about our current administration–or the uniform, works as a shield. Not in the admittedly problematic way I wouldn’t mind though, as in me, in uniform suddenly equals a Black man worthy or respect from White people. Nah. It tends to work the other way around. We are all American; We are all soldiers; We all bleed green, all becoming collective mantras for colorblindness while soldiers of color continue to be privy to the same uncharitable discourse I’m too familiar with between myself and many White friends.
If it’s already impossible to have a conversation with a friend who will probably never respect or believe you, it’s twice as difficult to advocate on the behalf of lower enlisted soldiers to leadership who will never respect or believe either of you. And you can’t really explain the lack of morale without going into detail; hell you can’t even get past the baby talk and assumptions they have about you, regardless of how superior your articulation, no matter how earnestly you supplicate, you’ll just keep getting pummeled in the face with crayons and oversimplifications that take the problem out of focus and re-center themselves.
Any mention of race in the military is tackled the only way the military knows how, with aggression. We can’t even get a soft core, “pretend to care” kind of class like they reluctantly offer on sexual assault either. Even when we look at racist regulations, most notably those concerning WOC’s hair, it could never, ever be a race problem. A study could reveal right now that Black soldiers are more likely to be punished for similar faults than White soldiers–and probably less likely to be rewarded for equal achievements, the essence of a conflict I’ve been having with my own soldiers–and the first comment would be: “it’s because they (or niggers if anonymous comments are enabled) are more fucked up.” They commit more offenses, are more disrespectful, are louder, are less likely to follow orders, they talk back (literally this one is suggested to me regularly), they wanna wear braids or have shaving profiles, etc. The list is literally fucking infinite. And somehow a military that is part of a society in which these nonsensical ass Boonquisha on Maury stereotypes thrive, in which I constantly see White boys chuckling in the barracks at all manner of Black bodies, the only Black bodies they “know,” on Youtube being “ratchet,” in which the majority of my unit is segregated, in which the actual commander in chief has garnered more support from White supremacists groups than any politician I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime, we’re all out here supposedly bleeding green. Except it’s not all of us that are bleeding.