While we bask in the glory of Veterans Day, under the impression that all who fought in the armed forces, did so for the same reasons, let us not forget that there has always been a segment of the population that has never been viewed as equal, abroad or when returning home from war. Mudbound was more than a movie. It was the reality of so many blacks drafted into America’s armed forces.
Let us also not forget that upon returning from war, blacks had an awakened consciousness. During World War II, Black men who were drafted into the war and deployed to Italy, France, and Germany immediately recognized the similarities between American racism and that experienced by Jews under Nazi oppression.
It is to this time in history that we trace the birth of the popular usage of the term “ghetto” to refer to the living conditions of blacks in America. In his Ghetto: The Invention of a Place, the History of an Idea, Mitchell Duneier points out that black scholars in the 1940’s used the term Ghetto in direct response to “the rise in attention to the Nazi treatment of Jews in Europe.” In other words, black scholars used this term as a political statement highlighting the reality of the black experience.
Blacks weren’t blind to the reality of their own oppression, nor to their responsibility. Those in the Black press proclaimed, “Our war is not against Hitler in Europe but against the Hitlers in America.”
So as we remember those who fought to liberate others, let us not forget those who fought (and continue to fight) to liberate themselves.