Black History Month ’09 #11: America! United We Stand, Divided We Fall

February 11th, 2009 by | Tags: , , ,

Something Garth Ennis does that I love is that he tends to have really obvious soapbox moments in his comics. The Boys has had a few of them so far, and The Boys 27, part five of We Gotta Go Now, had a particularly well-timed one.

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One thing that’s vital to remember when discussing, mulling over, or thinking about race is this fundamental fact: we are different, but we are the same. Our parents’ parents’ parents might came from somewhere else, we have different accents, and our skin color is different, but fundamentally, we all want the same things out of life.

Yes, there is always the crushing weight of history. We might have had different starting points, our peoples have gone through various tragedies and so on and so forth, but in the end?

It’s 2009 in the United States of America.

I think that it’s fair to say that I’m a little conflicted as to where I stand on the racial identification/country loyalty scale. Am I black first or am I an American first? Which comes first? Do I feel comfortable pledging allegiance to a country that’s spent much of the past treating people who look like me as less than trash?

I guess it’s all in how you look at things. I don’t use the phrase “African-American.” When I was younger, I thought it was both corny and self-limiting. I’ve kept with black for ages, and I don’t think I’ll ever change. It’s simple, it’s descriptive, and honestly, it sounds pretty tight.

At the same time, I’m still an American. I was born here, I’ll probably die here, and I can’t really think of anywhere that’s better than here. It isn’t perfect, but near as I can tell, it’s about as perfect as things are right now.

I don’t think that your entire culture should be absorbed into the mass, leaving one featureless mess. There’s something to be said for embracing your past even as you move into the future. It’s kind of like I mentioned here, with how post-racialism is going to begin.

So, am I black or am I American? I can’t decide if the answer is “both” or “That’s a stupid question.” The two are not mutually exclusive, and celebrating one doesn’t denigrate the other. I think Billy Butcher’s approach up top is really interesting, and maybe crucial. We’re all under the umbrella of American, and that’s a beautiful thing. It’s the old melting pot or salad bowl analogy. A bunch of different things mixed in to make one wonderful thing.

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5 comments to “Black History Month ’09 #11: America! United We Stand, Divided We Fall”

  1. I like to pretend Ennis wasn’t on his soapbox with The Boys, as it would be the very definition of irony that someone from one of Belfast’s most integrated, affluent suburbs, who made his reputation in the early 1990s by being allowed to say naughty things about the Irish on account of coming from a country next door to Ireland, and who shoehorns paddywhackery and Pogues songs – a faux-Irish band fronted by an Englishman – into virtually everything he writes at some stage or another – well, I like to think that person would display enough self-awareness to know any kind of stance he made on people who wear fake roots on their sleeve would be a wee bit hypocritical. Butcher is a fictional character espousing that character’s viewpoint in much the same way that any other would, be it Superman or a serial killer from Texas, and as such doesn’t necessarily reflect Ennis’ own experiences or opinions.

    I’ve always found the term ‘black culture’ confusing: a black guy’s ancestors can be from Australia, Africa, or one of those little islands in the asshole of nowhere, and I do wonder what common link they share in terms of culture that it’s fine to lump them all together as ‘black’.

  2. @JW

    If people were talking about Africans they’d say African culture (Which is something I would not suggest saying to someone from Africa. For some odd reason they hate being lumped together into some sort of monoculture. Go figure.) and if they meant Australian they’d usually say so. ‘American’ is assumed to precede black since people in the country are assumed to be native until shown otherwise. A specific signifier is usually only used when it becomes necessary to distinguish subgroups.

    It works the same for white and brown (at least it does in the states).

  3. @ONION
    That makes sense if applied universally, though I can’t say I’ve experienced the American attitude to such things firsthand in a social environment, coming from the UK as I do. I’ve never heard anyone use the term ‘Afro-Anglican’ or ‘African-Saxon’.

  4. Black to me is and entirely American construct. Being “Black” is a group of people from America that has ancestors from African Slaves, Native Americans, and White European settlers. Being “Black” is being American.

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