Looking back on some of my schooling I sometimes have moments of gratitude. One such moment is my exposure to writers/poets such as Langston Hughes. Just yesterday I decided to take a break from my history explorations and other real life to-do’s and dug into some of his work. I came across a poem which had that odd effect of triggering thought and wonder and I wanted to share it.
Dear Fellow Americans, I write this letter Hoping times will be better When this war Is through. I'm a Tan-skinned Yank Driving a tank. I ask, WILL V-DAY BE ME-DAY, TOO? I wear a U. S. uniform. I've done the enemy much harm, I've driven back The Germans and the Japs, From Burma to the Rhine. On every battle line, I've dropped defeat Into the Fascists' laps. I am a Negro American Out to defend my land Army, Navy, Air Corps-- I am there. I take munitions through, I fight--or stevedore, too. I face death the same as you do Everywhere. I've seen my buddy lying Where he fell. I've watched him dying I promised him that I would try To make our land a land Where his son could be a man-- And there'd be no Jim Crow birds Left in our sky. So this is what I want to know: When we see Victory's glow, Will you still let old Jim Crow Hold me back? When all those foreign folks who've waited-- Italians, Chinese, Danes--are liberated. Will I still be ill-fated Because I'm black? Here in my own, my native land, Will the Jim Crow laws still stand? Will Dixie lynch me still When I return? Or will you comrades in arms From the factories and the farms, Have learned what this war Was fought for us to learn? When I take off my uniform, Will I be safe from harm-- Or will you do me As the Germans did the Jews? When I've helped this world to save, Shall I still be color's slave? Or will Victory change Your antiquated views? You can't say I didn't fight To smash the Fascists' might. You can't say I wasn't with you in each battle. As a soldier, and a friend. When this war comes to an end, Will you herd me in a Jim Crow car Like cattle? Or will you stand up like a man At home and take your stand For Democracy? That's all I ask of you. When we lay the guns away To celebrate Our Victory Day WILL V-DAY BE ME-DAY, TOO? That's what I want to know. Sincerely, GI Joe.
I read and reread this piece and it really started to provoke a line of thinking involving the present day political picture.
The history that backs up and flows from this poem is undeniable. Being the history geek that I am that was worth a couple of hours of thought. Through the day today in between real life issues the political angle in the form of questions began to solidify.
Some of the questions are:
Does anyone, black or white, apply the title to the coming E-Day aka 4 November. Barack Obama enjoys overwhelming support among black America but what victory do they take from his ?
Racism is seen as very real in this race for president. I wonder if it is always true racism though ? I remember how people seemed to like Colin Powell and any number of celebrities. Is the negative vibes aimed at Obama only due to his skin ?
After this election no matter the outcome will times be better ?
Does America and especially white Americans get any props for coming this far ?
In reading the lines “You can’t say I didn’t fight To smash the Fascists’ might.You can’t say I wasn’t with you
in each battle.” Would some inevitably say today that the fascists are the GOP or some such thing ?
You spend a day with a poem you get to thinking. How about you ?