America’s new President-elect has avowed that because he loves this country, he will make it great again. Americans often demonstrate their love of country by hanging the American flag, wearing red, white, and blue or a flag lapel pin, or singing the national anthem. Donald Trump has even demonstrated his love of country by actually hugging the flag. I have never been invested in any of those practices. They simply do not resonate with me in any way. Even rising for the national anthem is something I have done purely out of social convention. This is perhaps because the American flag has never symbolized national pride for me, so much as struggle, hypocrisy, and a possibility for the ideals of freedom and equality. But surely this cannot mean that I love America less? Thankfully, I am reminded this Veteran's Day of what it means to Love one's country.
In yet another fantastical tale in the Chronicles of Post-Racial America, 16 black female West Point cadets were recently investigated for being [racist] inappropriately political. Their crime: taking a photo with [raised fists, equated by some to a Nazi salute (I can't make this stuff up)] a "political" gesture while in uniform, a violation of a Department of Defense directive. On May 10th, the investigation concluded that no punitive action will be taken against the cadets, as their gesture was not found to be political. This outcome is not surprising given the overwhelming support for these 16 black women by West Point graduates from all walks of life, not to mention the tireless advocacy of alums like Mary Tobin (also listen here) and Sue Fulton, and most recently, the Commander in Chief's endorsement of what really matters - what these women and all of their classmates have accomplished in the past four years.
But now that all of the madness surrounding this investigation appears to be over, I cannot help but wonder: what have we learned?
I am often asked to convey what I perceive to be the experiences of women in the military - something I have been reticent to do largely because it has felt too personal to process, much less articulate. Personal is scary, scary because it is Vulnerability. Vulnerability can be a beautiful thing. So perhaps personal can be too. Articulating it? The following post is comprised of excerpts from a letter I wrote to a gathering of gender scholars on August 21, 2015 about women in Ranger School.
Two outside reviews have concluded that Tamir Rice's murder was tragic, but justified. The officer's decision to gun him down because he posed a perceived threat was "objectively reasonable" - objective because, according to one of the reports, "a reasonable officer, confronting the exact same scenario under identical conditions could have concluded that deadly force was necessary." That being the measure, I have to say that I absolutely agree with the reports. In our society, 'objectively', a 'reasonable' officer absolutely would have gunned down a 12 year old black child playing with a pellet gun.
In 1905, historian Walter Fleming wrote that after slaves were emancipated, Negro women ignorantly aspired to "live like their former mistresses, to wear fine clothes and go often to church," instead of working the fields or as domestics as they should have. He highlighted the tragedy that freedwomen aspired to be "ladies" when in fact they were bad mothers, promiscuous, prone to venereal disease, and just generally immoral creatures. "Negro women" he further stated, "were never as well-mannered, nor, on the whole, as good-tempered and cheerful, as the negro men.” Even during Reconstruction, "many negroes for a time seemed to consider it a mark of servility to behave decently to the whites," but "some of the blacks, especially the women, became impudent and insulting toward the whites." Witness the birth story of the Angry Black Woman spectre.
For the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.