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The United States is the world’s ultimate super power constituted by a diverse mix of different races. 13 percent of these constituents are pre-dominantly blacks. Even in this era, inequality and racism seem to be rampant in the country and in fact, capitalism seems to feed off these vices; as Malcolm X said, “You cannot have capitalism without racism”.
The aftermath of the Katrina disaster exposed these ugly trends in the country after many blacks were displaced and seemed to be neglected. Statistics show that the black community has decreased in terms of population in New Orleans; once at 67 percent, now is at 58 percent. Louisiana Republican Congressman, Richard Baker said, “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did” referring to the displacement of poor black residents in New Orleans.
Black youth seem to be the target of police harassment and imprisonment in addition to them being the most exploited and unemployed in the country. These inequalities have sparked social explosions as was evident in 1992 when there were riots in Los Angeles, a rich city having a large number of poor blacks. The past struggles which yielded the heroes of yesteryears have done little to improve the lives of many blacks who have not experienced any change.
Black freedom struggle has taken many shapes over time, but during this period shaped what is commonly and popularly referred to as black (African-American) culture. The struggle has taken various steps since the slavery days when Africans were shipped into America.
The march on Washington Campaign of 1940 is the earliest cited genesis of the struggle by “No Coward Soldiers” and subsequent struggles have taken the shape of bus boycotts (Montgomery 1955-56), freedom rides in 1960, Poor People’s March in 1968 and attempts at establishing a black political party in 1970. All these events exuded passion from the black community and have largely influenced black culture to this day.
“No Coward Soldiers”, has traced the development of the modern freedom struggle and attributes it to the need by blacks to have a distinct culture that uniquely defines and influences them. In an attempt to understand the modern freedom struggle, this paper focuses on the black culture which has influenced the struggle and is influenced by the black community today. The genesis of the distinct African-American culture is the fight against white hegemony.
This factor has probably singularly shaped most of what constitutes the black culture albeit not single handedly. The need to have a political structure that advocates the needs of the black community has also played a big part in the shaping of black culture. Politics and culture neither substitute nor determine one another but rather relate each other in a more complex manner. Politics can shape culture and vice versa. Therefore, in an attempt to understand black culture, the book attempts to analyze black internal politics.
African-American culture has its roots in sub-Saharan ad Sahelean cultures, it has however been greatly influenced by white culture in the post-slavery era. It is one of the most unique cultures which greatly influences mainstream American culture and that of the world evidenced in music, art, literature, cuisine and sport.
The culture aids in the removal of historical complexities from the mind. Take for example black music which is accepted world wide and is central to black culture as it a reflection of it. Politics are central in the influence of cultures and present modern day heroes for the common African-American in the likes of Obama, Rice and Powell. African-Americans consider themselves the saving nation of the larger American nation and this notion is captured in poems such as ‘My Blackness Is the Beauty of This Land’(Martin, 11).
Blacks are known for their interests in political processes compared to any other minority group in the US evident in the large numbers of registered voters. They also have higher education levels compared to any migrants in the country.
This helps to show that blacks are fighting on every front to level the playing field when compared to whites so as to better advocate their rights which they feel have not been wholly addressed. While upholding the doctrine of beating people at their own game, blacks have enrolled in all social areas and are striving to excel in those areas so as to offer themselves the opportunities that they previously have been denied.
The accent of Obama to presidency, the presence of sports heroes in the likes of Gay and Kobe, the wealth accrued by Oprah and Johnson of Black entertainment Television and other examples have been a driving force in empowering blacks and better placing them to advance their struggle for true and ultimate freedom.
They have not only black Americans with the impetus, but also provided white America with new ways of describing black bodies and sounds distinctively(Sklaroff, 247).
African-Americans largely favor the traditional American values. They cite their culture as the major determinant in their opposition to same-sex marriages and the upholding of traditional family values which discouraged divorce. Increased divorce rates among blacks, and increased single parent households evidenced by the fact that only 38 percent of black children live with both parents (McKinnon 2003), indicate an influence of white culture and changing economic realities.
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“No Coward Soldiers”, draws parallels between the past freedom struggle and the present freedom struggles and argues it from a realities perspective. The past was characterized by fight for equality brought about by segregation whereas the present although still focused on equality is of a different nature.
“In black culture, we can find a history of American perfidy, American violence, American oppression and American racism, all captured for our delectation in a way that provokes reflection without spurring us into action” (Cashmore, 170).
He further adds that the culture of blacks is the source of comfort rather than a challenge. It is in the culture that blacks draw their inspiration as they reflect on the road they have taken to a form of freedom envisaged by the initial freedom fighters.
“No Coward Soldiers” has discussed in detail the genesis and the continued proliferation of black freedom struggle. The fact that culture has played a major role in the shaping of this struggle over the years is not in doubt, in fact, both the culture and the freedom struggle have affected each other mutually.
It is the struggle that conglomerated blacks in the beginning and it has continued to umbrella them in institutions appealing to their course. For example, blacks initially were republican since Abraham Lincoln aided in abolishing slavery, they have since defected to the democratic movement as Johnson and Kennedy were sympathetic to the civil rights movement of 1960’s.
Cashmore, Ellis. The Black Culture Industry. London: Routledge, 1997
Martin, Waldo E. Jr. No Coward Soldiers. Black Cultural Politics in Postwar America. President and Fellows of Harvard College, 2005
McKinnon, Jesse. The Black Population in the United States: March 2002. United States Census Bureau, 2003
Sklaroff, Lauren Rebecca. Black Culture and the New Deal: the quest for civil rights in the Roosevelt era. Charlotte: The University of North Carolina Press, 2009