Where does the good go

Red, White, Blue AND Black

I am a first generation American. I grew up in a poor black “inner city” in Brooklyn. My mother, born and raised- like my father- in Panama, decided very early on to make me as American as her paltry salary as a nursing aide could afford.

I ate my fast food at McDonald’s, wore Nike sneakers on my feet, watched Saturday morning cartoons and spoke only English in my house.

I was one of the last generation of kids who were bussed into all-white schools in the name of integration and even though it was the close of the 70s, angry white parents egged our school bus and shouted profanities in our little brown faces. I was a preteen during the race riots, in Brooklyn, between blacks and the Hasidim and blacks and the Koreans. In college, I majored in Political Science and during law school I volunteered at death penalty clinics in New Orleans.

I explain all of that to demonstrate as clearly as I can, that my eyes are wide open. I KNOW of this country’s tortured relationship with the poor, with blacks, with women, and with immigrants. I have lived firsthand, the frustation of being voiceless and disenfranchised. However, and I say this without equivocation: I still LOVE THIS COUNTRY.

Sure, most days that means repping for BKNY — but I love all of America. I shed tears for days watching New Orleans underwater, I prayed for California when earthquakes devastated the Bay Area, I was crushed to see the destruction visited upon Oklahoma City by twisted, evil minds. THIS is my country. THESE are my people. When they compete on the world stage wearing OUR flag and OUR colors, they will have my support. When they are robbed by stupidface judges, I will complain loudest on their behalf. Whether they win or they lose, I have their proverbial backs — be it in sports I love, like figure skating or baseball, or sports I have no idea what the hell is going on, like fencing or *ahem* soccer.

So it saddens me that as the U.S. is set to face Ghana in the next round of the World Cup on Saturday, that so many of the African-American tweeps I follow on twitter are expressing uncertainity about who they will be cheering for. I saw one comment which said something to the effect of “I almost feel like if I root for the U.S. to beat Ghana, it’ll be like denying slavery happened.” Wait. What?

First of all, the United States soccer team isn’t composed of a homogenous group of rich, white landowning men. They haven’t marched into South Africa to defeat the Ghanans by force. This is not a global game of Risk. It’s a game of SOCCER. (Or football if you’re gonna be all snooty about it.) Yeah, I suppose it sounds all cool to denounce the mighty U.S. in the abstract — but how does it sound when you actually look these young athletes in the face and call them “colonialists” and “slave traders.”

Is Jozy Altidore, a first generation American, one of the youngest and most talented strikers in the game, a dirty imperialist that you cannot root for? Was that the stand you took six months ago when his parents’ country, Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake? What about Tim Howard? Ridiculed as “handicapped” by the British press when he tried to play soccer in England. Is he too privileged to be worthy of your cheers? I don’t know the individual stories of the Ghana team. But I do know that for the black men on the U.S. soccer team to withstand the pressures to play basketball or football and end up being world class soccer athletes, is pretty dang extraordinary. The United States in 2010 is an amazing place. It has eleven-fifty million problems, but for right now, I look to the White House and the New York State house and there are leaders there who look like me. The President of the U.S. won the Nobel Peace prize. I celebrate that. I want the U.S. to win the World Cup. And I want to see Heculez Gomez – a Mexican-American- cheesing on the Wheaties box when they do. The black and brown members of the U.S. team shouldn’t be shunned by their own communities at home when they face off against “ancestral” teams like Ghana or Mexico.

For sure, it’s all just a game. And everyone should be free to cheer whatever team they want to cheer for. You decide who your people are. As for me, come Saturday — and however many World Cup games after Saturday, the U.S. team is blessed to play for — I will be yelling my fool head off for the American boys. I will cheer them as they face off against black opponents, brown opponents, or white opponents. Wherever my loyalties may lie when we’re home, when the U.S. competes on the world stage, only three colors matter.

45 Responses to “Red, White, Blue AND Black”

  1. Angela Says:

    As a white person, I feel like even responding how I want to (“HELL YEAH, THIS COUNTRY IS AWESOME”) makes me seem like a racist because of how certain people think.

    Also seeming racist but I’m going to say it anyway: if you hate it here so much and can’t even root for us in a silly game, you aren’t wanted here anyway. Leave if you hate it so bad.

    We were just having a conversation here at work where I said the same thing about a white co-worker…she is a bleeding heart liberal who is currently in a fight with her office mate…the office mate wants to put up an American flag in the office, the bleeding heart said no, she finds the flag offensive because she thinks America is evil. My two words for her: “Get (the fuck) out.”

    Thanks for writing this post. U-S-A! (I couldn’t care less about the sport, but I don’t get why you wouldn’t root for your country. That’s like someone who lives in Philly rooting for the Cowboys!)

  2. Dawn Summers Says:

    Bleeding hearts are THE DAMN HELL ASS WORST! I would simply ask her if America is evil because of the black President. That’ll shut her up.

  3. Angela Says:

    ooooh, that’s a good one! I try not to speak to this woman whatsoever, but if it can’t be avoided, I’m using that comeback. Awesome!

  4. Dawn Summers Says:

    Or ask her if she pays taxes…or does she collect a paycheck from the evil american government? Does she drive on evil american roads?

  5. Angela Says:

    That’s what makes me so mad! She WORKS for the gov’t, and full well intends to collect her pension from the gov’t in just a few years. When she retires she wants to move to Venezuela. #nobullshit

    (This is also the woman who, while she was briefly my office mate, thought that I thought she has a disease because I wouldn’t use the crummy bathroom in our shared office.)

  6. Alceste Says:

    As I fully agree on the substance, I will comment on the inane: Is anyone else disturbed by Dawn’s newly proclaimed love of figure skating? Also her declaration that Altidore is one of the most talented strikers in the game? (Watching the U.S. play Slovenia and Algeria is not the proper measure for coming to a judgment about international strikers.)

  7. Dawn Summers Says:

    bahahahahahaah SHUT IT, ALCESTE!

  8. Gib Says:

    Re: Dawn’s opinion of Altidore – I would note that few things in this world are more American than possessing very strong opinions on matters about which one knows next to nothing.

    And while I bear no ill will to the people of Ghana, unfortunately, it is my duty as an American to cheer for the ultimate destruction of their soccer team. I am sure citizens of Ghana feel the same way about their team, and I will try not to chuckle too much when their dreams go the way of Lindsay Lohan’s career.

  9. pearatty Says:

    Do the Americans have a rally song for our team yet? As I recall from the last World Cup, all the other teams have songs, and the Americans were just yelling “USA! USA! USA! USA!” People probably are torn about who to root for because they want to sing a rally song.

  10. Alceste Says:

    Fortunately, the vuvuzuelas have nullified any song disadvantage the U.S. may have, and chants of U.S.A. are about the only thing that can be heard (and I’m pretty sure Sam’s army has come up with a few rally songs).

  11. Dawn Summers Says:

    We have a song. It’s the song that rallied us to victory over the Germans, not once, BUT TWICE! It’s the song that was played after the Miracle on the Ice in 1980! It’s the song we sing when all hope seems lost and defeat appears to be certain, but somwhere in the distance, through the smoke and debris there…can you hear it? The opening chords of the song…OUR SONG: Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus. What up!

  12. Alceste Says:

    Oh dear.

  13. Dawn Summers Says:


  14. pearatty Says:

    I love how much conversation fodder your STD lady is giving us!

    Basically, and I am white, so of course I have no right to an opinion on this and I will run away after I say this, but I agree with what Whoopi Goldberg said about why she calls herself Black and not African American — she said she’d been to Africa and met Africans, and she knows she’s not African. I mean, if you’re here, and are a Citizen, you are American, and America is you. The people who discrimnate, “the Man”, the people who enjoy bombing small developing countries, that’s segments of America, but that’s not “America”.

    To say America is evil but stay here and enjoy the benefits of living here, without doing anything about it, is to abdicate your own responsibility for the evil this country does. So step up and (a) work to stop the evil and stop taking advantage of the benefits it brings you; or (b) go naturalize someplace you don’t think is evil. Otherwise, shut the hell up and admit you’re an apathetic American like all those other Americans, and root for the home team.

    I also feel that to say “I’m going to root for Ghana because I’m black”, shows a certain lack of respect for what it means to be Ghanan. It’s a nationality, not a race.

    Somewhat muddled, but there it is.

  15. Dawn Summers Says:

    Oy. I don’t agree with that. But I’ve never been to “Africa” or met “Africans.” What the heck does that mean anyway? Does she live in North America? Is she a North American? “African-American” is a construct that refers to a particular race in the United States. Much the way “black” is. I know black, I’ve seen black, I am not black. Neither is Whoopi, but we understand how it’s being used. In any case, whatever, everyone knows Whoopi Goldberg’s Jewish.

  16. Alceste Says:

    So Dawn’s Altidore comment has made me spend far too much time wondering how many american players would be considered in the top 10 at their position just among those at the World Cup. Aside from Howard, and without further procrastinating to go through all of the LM/RM at the World Cup, I’m not sure if there are any (which I suppose just shows how well they play given the relatively mediocre talent level).

  17. Angela Says:

    Yeah, Pearatty, exactly. Very well put. I will add that there is a reason why nobody ever does option (b)…nowhere is better than America!! And for the most part people are too lazy to do (a), so they just front like they hate it here but are stuck. This woman I work with rails on and on about injustices, but she does nothing about it. Nothing. The crazyiest part to me about the flag debacle is that the woman she is arguing with is a Russian immigrant…she came to this country years ago, because she knew it was a better place. She loves it here, despite the country’s faults, and is blazingly proud to be an American. Yet, this whiny little woman is offended because the immigrant woman wants to proudly display a flag.

  18. pearatty Says:

    Oy. Whoopi Goldberg’s Jewish.


  19. Astin Says:

    Oh to be able to lament the follies of one’s countrymen in not cheering for their own team. It’s like that time Canada had a team in the World Cup? Remember that? Yah… it was back in… umm… oh yah! 1986. That was only 24 years ago, but man did that team kick ass! 3 games! No goals! YAH!

    Or how about the time before that! Back in… 19-oh-NEVER.

    So I’ll just cheer for whichever team has the most Canadians on it.

  20. Dawn Summers Says:

    So is that the US or Ghana?

  21. pearatty Says:

    I don’t agree with that. But I’ve never been to “Africa” or met “Africans.” What the heck does that mean anyway? Does she live in North America? Is she a North American? “African-American” is a construct that refers to a particular race in the United States. Much the way “black” is. I know black, I’ve seen black, I am not black. Neither is Whoopi, but we understand how it’s being used.

    I know, I know. I’m not saying I object to the term African-American or want to argue people shouldn’t use it or whatever. It’s actually my default because I imagine it to be the most likely to say: “I would like to identify this race by whatever makes people of this race most comfortable, and it’s my impression that this is the chosen term.” Not that I talk about race so much anyway, but, you know, when I do.

    And I like what you say about it being a construct, and we understand how it’s being used. But, on the other hand, to get wrapped up in the “Africanness” of it, is like me saying “I’m thinking I’m going to root for the Netherlands because I’m European American.” I understand Holland as a country with a very different culture and history, which is not my own, even though some of my genes came from there a very long time ago. It’d be different if my parents had come from Holland, and we still ate tulips on holidays, or whatever it is the Dutch do. So for example, I might think it was perfectly natural for you to say, “I’m thinking I might root for Panama, because my mom’s from there and I have connections to it.”

    Should I stop talking now?

  22. Dawn Summers Says:

    As long as you stop rooting for Canada in gold medal hockey games against the US, we’re cool. That goes for you too, Astin.

  23. pearatty Says:

    I loves me a winner.

  24. Dawn Summers Says:

    Blah blah blah will we ever hear the end of that stupid war of 1812?

  25. pearatty Says:

    Oh, and last sorta funny uncomfortable story about the term African American — take from it what you will.

    My 65-year old uncle was showing me pictures of his photo safari in South Africa. At one point, there was a picture of the staff who led them on the safari. My uncle said, “And those are the, Afri . . . uh, African-American guides.”

    I’m pretty sure they were just African.

  26. Tae Says:

    USA! USA! USA!

    Pearatty – that’s a fabulous story!

    I have nothing to add to the race conversation. I’m mixed race which was just another thing I got teased and tortured about as a kid. But I do like that Dawn appreciates figure skating. I love watching figure skating.

    USA! USA! USA!

  27. Dawn Summers Says:

    A mixed race Quaker who is married to an Irish man and plays poker?? dude. Now, I’m pretty sure you’re a figment of my imagination! damn am I creatve.

  28. Tae Says:


  29. Dawn Summers Says:

    Uh oh…is that a bad ‘Dude’? I’m just saying you’re exactly the imaginary friend I would invent for myself! Plus, you cook! I will stop typing now…

  30. Dawn Summers Says:

    Though I don’t know why I gave you cats and located you in New Jersey…rather than next door with video games…ok, back to me stopping typing…

  31. Alceste Says:

    So when I thought I was playing poker with Tae’s husband, it was actually a dream? I totally should have dreamed of winning more money…

  32. KJ Says:

    Is Jozy Altidore, a first generation American, one of the youngest and most talented strikers in the game…

    Hahaha. Nope.

  33. Dawn Says:

    Or that my imaginary friend just has a real husband. Which…wow…awesome. I call movie rights!

  34. Ugarles Says:

    I am so disappointed that I can’t root for Ghana. I was having so much fun rooting for them against teams that aren’t the USA.

  35. Dawn Says:

    OMG KJ AND UGARLES commented??? Am I dying? What have you guys heard??

  36. F-Train Says:

    If you don’t root for the U.S. in the World Cup, you’re a commie. That’s what I was supposed to take from this post, amirite?

    I’m all for identifying with your roots, but for the love of all that’s holy, you can’t forget who you *are*.

  37. Dawn Summers Says:

    And now, F-train? Seriously…who died…who’s dying? if it’s me and nobody tells me, i’m coming back for revenge.

  38. pearatty Says:

    I miss the good old days, when Ugarles and KJ and F-Train and Rick Blaine commented all the time.

  39. pearatty Says:

    Ooh, and Iocaste. What ever happened to Iocaste?

  40. Dawn Summers Says:

    What DID happen to Iocaste?!

  41. pearatty Says:

    As I recall, she got a job. Sigh.

  42. Dawn Summers Says:

    A fancy one. But that’s usually when people comment the mostest!

  43. Rick Blaine Says:

    I am a third generation American. I grew up in a nice part of Panama City, Panama. My mother, born and raised- like my father- in the United States, decided very early on to make me as American as her paltry salary as an English teacher could afford.

    I ate my fast food at McDonald’s, wore Chuck Taylors on my feet, watched Saturday morning cartoons and spoke only English in my house (except to the maid, whose skin was brown, and to whom I spoke Spanish).

    I was one of the many generations of kids who were driven to private international schools, and I got kicked out of schools run by the French, the Germans, and the Jews. By the close of the 70s, I had angry white parents because I had egged our school bus and shouted profanities in the little brown, yellow, and white faces of my classmates. I don’t know what the hell a “preteen” is (how far back does it go? Is a toddler a “preteen”?), but I did watch “Do the Right Thing” at some point. In college, I majored in Latin American Literature, and during law school I really wanted to visit New Orleans (but never did).

    I explain all of that to demonstrate as clearly as I can, that I have read this blog post. I KNOW of Dawn’s tortured relationship with her commenters, as well as with blacks, with women, and with men. I have lived firsthand, the frustration of being voiceless and disenfranchised. However, and I say this without equivocation: KAROL SUCKS.

  44. pearatty Says:


    Rick Blaine lives!

  45. CGHill Says:

    As a person who was close enough to the Oklahoma City bombing to have his windows literally rattled by it, I can say only this:


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