america, MINE

My fieldwork consisted of several trips between two regions of the country (the northeast and the South) to ask the question, “What does it mean to be Black and an American patriot?” I wanted to confront all of the monuments, national sites, and memorials that appear in my thesis manuscript, but ultimately visited a total of 12 historical locations. At each site, I interrogated my personal relationship to america, asking questions about what patriotism means, who can afford to be patriotic, and what is gained and/or lost in that patriotism at the intersection of Blackness. I interviewed Black communities from different regions of the country and across varying age ranges to ask them the same questions and create a discussion around historical symbols, historical erasure, and the ways in which they have (or have not) reconciled the Black experience with the american experience. In each place, I found that many had arrived at these questions just as I have. Some had not found the answers, others concluded that there was no answer, and there were those who were still grappling with any answer at all. I noted a difference in some of the attitudes toward the country, across age groups: some older age groups recognized the ills of american life, but had rested on the simple fact that things were as they have always been, and would not change. Some older groups have been bitter for a very long time. Some of the younger age groups felt a total disregard for the country, focusing their energies on creating community and rejecting the notion of a nation altogether. The bitterness of others of the younger groups seemed to be in the beginning stages of development as feelings of anger toward and rejection by this country were expressed.