The connection that African-American men have with a nation that enslaved their ancestors have always been a contentious issue. The black man’s place in America has always been a conundrum. This centuries old issue was faced and remained unresolved by notable black men such as Nat Turner, Frederick Douglass, David Walker, Booker T. Washington, and W.E.B. Du Bois. Today, the question of “What is the black man’s relationship to America?” remains.
NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown is the latest to weigh in on the dilemma. When one considers Jim Brown’s importance during the highly volatile sixties protest scene, it is understandable that his opinion matters. I am confident that I have much company in believing that Brown would join those who have taken significant issue with assertions that America is “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” It seems that such expectations are errant as the famed Cleveland Browns running back has taken an oppositional position to the recent spate of NFL protests by admonishing that he would never “desecrate my flag and my national anthem.”
Jim Brown’s position on this matter contradicts everything that we thought that we knew about his political stance on Race in America. I am confident that most will agree that Brown’s embracing of the flag and the national anthem reveals a portion of his heart that most never knew existed. One thing is certain, the famed football player has removed all doubt surrounding his view of this matter by definitively embracing America via a declarative statement that “This is my country.”
Although there is a significant portion of my being that wishes to attribute Brown’s comments to a yet to be diagnosed brain injury, Failure to attribute this shocking political stance means that the significance of the hellish existence that black men living on the North American continent have endured for the past 400 years has little significance to the former Cleveland Brown running back. Brown’s statement was so disconcerting that it has remained in my mind for several weeks. Put simply; I have not been able to shake Brown’s utterance.
After much pondering, I shocked myself when I began to consider Brown’s position quite logical and supported by the black experience. Jim Brown’s declaration that “This is my country” has forced me to re-evaluate long-held positions regarding African-Americans stake in this nation. The black claim to America is nothing new as there has always been a portion of Black America that have refused to surrender their birthright by distancing themselves from America. To the chagrin of whites, the alluded to individuals have not only claimed America as their own but also asserted that they have the most significant claim of all.
Although most will scoff at the assertion that blacks are the most American of all Americans, the historical record actually supports the claim. When one considers the contributions that blacks have made to this nation from Jamestown through the present moment, Brown’s claim appears less outlandish than when initially stated.
Although we rarely discuss it, there is no getting around the fact that the initial attempt to settle the North American continent without the aid of Africans was a drastic failure that resulted in a “lost colony.” Furthermore, from the development of Jamestown, it has been the labor of persons of African descent that have enriched this nation at an unconscionable level. As if those historical realities were not enough, we must never forget that it has been an often maligned and oppressed black populace that regularly points the architects of this American democracy back to its pillars of “freedom, justice, and democracy.” When considered in its totality, it is obvious that African-Americans have always been an active agent in forcing this nation to re-engage the process of renewing its democratic principles.
After much consideration of this matter, I must agree with Jim Brown and like-minded individuals who state that our claim to ownership of America is particularly strong. In fact, it is actually much more substantive than any other population currently residing on the North American continent.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017