Republican pundit Pat Buchanan is known for making foolish, racially inflammatory statements. The man who once proclaiming that “conservatives are the niggers of the Nixon administration,” is back at it again, and this time it seems he’s reminiscing about the good ol’ days of the 1950s, when Americans were more united.
In an interview with radio host Mark Davis, agreed with Davis when he said that unlike today, Blacks of the 1950s were “woven into the fabric of the America of that time than many of today’s black Americans are woven into the America of this time.”
Buchanan goes onto explain that during the 1950s, Blacks and Whites “all had a common religion, we all worshiped the same God, we all went to schools where American literature was taught, the English language was our language, we all rooted for the same teams, we read the same newspapers, we listened to the same music. We were a people then. We were all Americans. Now I’m not saying segregation was good. But what I was saying, that did not prevent us from being one people.”
Just to get a little perspective on how (some) African-Americans felt during the ’50s, I asked my mother and grandmother, both of whom were born in segregated Arkansas. Although my grandparents moved North in the late ’50s, my mother remembered just how much she felt separated from (White) America.
Sure, like Buchanan mentioned the majority–not all–Blacks were Christians and watched the same shows and rooted for hometown sports teams (even though many African-Americans weren’t allowed to play), not all Black people at that time felt as American as their White counterparts because they knew they were limited for no other reason except the color of their skin.
When I told my mother Buchanan made these comments, she said, “Of course he feels that way, he’s White. He had no idea what it was like for us.”
Lately, we’ve had a proliferation of “good ol’ days” images. From the success of The Help and other films showing America’s cleaned up segregated past, to the Tea Party claiming they want their country back, going back to simpler times seems like a wonderful place in which America was at it best.
Only it wasn’t.
The 1950s and 1960s were a difficult time for not only African-Americans, but our nation as a whole. The growing Civil Rights and Black Power movements called attention to the inequality present in the country, and images of America’s racist practices blasted screens across the world.
Pat Buchanan’s assertion that Blacks of the 1950s were “more American” completely brushes aside just HOW difficult things were for us during that time (it also minimizes movements such as Pan Africanism and Black Nationalism). Not only is it revisionist to say Blacks were “more American” at a time when we weren’t treated as equal, but it signals the disgusting idea that Blacks have to PROVE we are indeed “American” through our actions (unyielding patriotism) despite this country being our birthplace.
For many Blacks in America, James Baldwin captures our thoughts when he said, “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”
What do you think of Pat Buchanan’s statements? Are Blacks today more or less “American” than in the 1950s?