Before I was American…I was Black

African-Americans like me are caught in a crossfire right now. We are strongly expected to have undying loyalty…or we are looked at as a traitor. But am I wrong to consider all the possibilities? Like many, my mind is still on overload from the events of September 11, 2001. This day shall, no doubt, be one of the most infamous in my personally witnessed history. One plane, two planes, three planes, four. Tragedy from the skies and now we’re at war. It’s still so amazing to believe that a country which has invested so much taxpayer money in the Defense Department could not provide a better defense against this type of attack. Yet, I suppose there are just some things you cannot protect against like those you just don’t see coming. Or did we?

At the risk of sounding “un-American,” I ask questions, only to get angry sentiment rather than answers. Why is it wrong for me to demand answers?! Do we not claim to be the best democratic society in the world, instituting a serious of checks and balances so as we CAN question when we feel something may not be quite up to par or in the best interest of our society? Are we not heralded as a bastion of tolerance and morality? I would like to think my country is the greatest in the world. But I cannot offer an expert opinion since I have not been to all the other countries to see for myself. I can only go by what I experience and what I see on television. And being in the media, I am fully aware how propaganda is used even by this great country! Thus, before I can condemn, I want to know fully what am I condemning and why. Is that un-American to feel this way? Judge not unfairly lest ye be judged.

Born and raised in America, I can without a doubt say America IS my home. If you check your history and go further beyond the Mayflower, beyond the Red Man crossing the Bearing Straits, you will find that people of African descent were already here. An original descendant of the North Continent, my people were a part of those who taught others how to survive and prosper in this country in hopes we could all work together and continue to make this nation the “America the Beautiful” we’ve so proudly sung about in the last few weeks.

However, because I choose not to engage in blind patriotism and jump on the “kill or be killed” bandwagon, I am considered UN-AMERICAN?!! When pages and pages of history have shown countless dishonorable intents made by the American government since 1781 against the native inhabitants and immigrants who look differently than those on the Mayflower, can I not operate my freedom of checks and balances to merely question something which feels wrong deep down in the core of my soul? Is it not American to question why my freedom is being manipulated? Aside from those who were cast from the shores of Europe because they were diseased and criminally insane, did not the rest of the latter-day Americans come to these shores looking for freedom against an oppressive tyrannical society? Were they not seeking justice, religious freedom and tolerance? Did they not fight against taxation without representation? Were we not proud that they questioned rather than accepted these perceived errors in judgement and governing? CHECK YOUR HISTORY BOOKS! Yet, how could these same people so blindly ignore another people doing the same thing? Why has the so-called oppressed willingly and easily chosen to follow the ways of their former oppressors? Why do our laws apply some of the time but not all of the time?

Still, because I ask questions, some dare to question my patriotism?! Many in my family have fought and continue to fight in battles to defend America, including the one we are undertaking at the moment. To my recollection, none of my family has skipped off to Canada or had their daddies pull strings to keep them from serving in the armed forces. Both my father and mother were in the military. My husband has served in the Persian Gulf War. Numerous relatives have defended and are still defending this country’s ideology. I have been an advocate and activist of justice for this country for as long as I can remember. Yet, reality dictates that there is a “fly” in the soup and I did not put it there!! My father was a brilliant man, graduating at the top of his class. Yet, acquiring rank was no easy task for this man who preceded affirmative action and suffered intense racism. Retiring a commanding warrant officer, I feel he could have easily made Colonel General had it not been for the color of his skin. My father was a precise man, a talented man, an intelligent man, a fair man, a strong and outspoken man, a military manand he was a Black man. In the end, this is all the army chose to see. My mother was an intelligent woman, an attractive woman, a well-spoken and well-read woman, a versatile woman, a wonderful nurseand she was a Black woman. How many promotions was she turned down for and how many patients she saved spat in her face merely because she looked different? My husband is a brilliant man, a fair manand a much troubled man since his stint in the Persian Gulf. Why? Because he is a Black man who is having the most difficult time getting his justly deserved benefits from a country he so valiantly fought for. A country whose system takes him through hundreds and hundreds of tests, reviews, and red tape, just to come up with the same results they constantly ask for yet claim they never see. A country whose system regularly loses my husband’s paperwork, purposely forcing him back to square one. Thank God, he has learned to keep his own records. A country which ignores this veteran’s defense for his own health and welfare of his family (reminiscent of the Vietnam/Agent Orange scenario), yet they would quickly call upon him again to blindly defend a system that has yet to work for him. A country which constantly pushes my husband’s claims to the side like his services didn’t count while processing in a much more timely fashion those claims of his white brethren whom he fought right beside. Were his services not as important?!

Now, many would say: “That’s unfortunate but that’s in the past and there are more important issues to deal with right now.” I agree. This IS the past…a past which continues to affect my present and future since the lessons unlearned are brought up on a constant basis in so many contrived ways. Yes, there ARE more important issues to deal with. Like when ARE we going to learn from our past? What WILL it take for America to recognize its own faults since we’re so good at pointing out the faults in others? WHEN will America stop discriminating against someone, merely based on the color of their skin or how they choose to worship God? HOW LONG will it take America to realize that those who question their misguided intentions only do so because we WANT this country to be the greatest country in the world?! WILL the children really understand the true teachings of Jesus the Christ by someone who boldly utters the statement that they want someone “dead or alive” when it has NOT been 100 percent proven that this person is guilty? WHAT ABOUT our own Constitutional laws of “innocent until proven guilty?” HOW DO WE condone and condemn killing based on premise and not proof without totally confusing our youth? HOW CAN WE SAY you’re either for us or against us, and we will punish you if you remain neutral? Can this be WHY there are so many who hate us so bad? Can a country that constantly breaks its own rules be expected to be the moral conscious for the rest of the world? Can we continue to overlook these faults and not think they would not come back to haunt us?!!

When it comes to decisions we make regarding others, let us be right because we ARE right, not merely because we say so like a bully. Too many lives are on the line. Too many innocent souls are threatened for something that smells of FEAR more than freedom. Something must change and indeed justice must be done! But it must start from within before it can truly spread throughout this world. The greatest weapons of destruction reside within one’s own mind. We must change our mindset to equal our values. We must truly understand the difference between fighting for freedom and fighting out of fear. We must ask ourselves honestly WHERE does that fear stem from?

On a daily basis, this country reminds me that I am looked at as a color with little opinion. Then I’m expected to say nothing of this injustice while loyally charging off to battle another injustice. Am I the only one who is confused by this selective Democratic spirit of freedom? Yet, I still care enough to honestly speak up because I want more for myself and my children. I want America to live up to the claims of being the home of the brave and land of the free. Considering this nation’s birth is still a fledgling 200 years old, America IS a good country but she still has a ways to go. I want to see America righteously prosper without fear. And I do not want to see another chain of events like I saw on September 11, 2001! This is what I am fighting for BECAUSE I AM AN AMERICAN. Is my patriotism not as valid?

Ms. Val Jones is a broadcaster, writer, public speaker and edutainer.