Wednesday, April 15, 2009

So much for liberated liberators

A few years ago, back when I more or less got paid to write a blog, I expressed my surprise that such a distinguished journal as The Atlantic would seem to indicate that the US military that defeated Hitler's Herrenrasse was itself integrated. I knew from the tales of Germans who lived through that time that the US military was, in fact, segregated.

Now, I see via Harper's Weekly Review that the BBC recently discovered previously undisclosed memos indicating how top US military leaders reacted to France's request to have French troops, rather than US troops, march into liberated French towns first (the BBC speaks of the liberation of Paris, but I know from my year in Strasburg that the practice was the same there as well).

While US military agreed with French leaders that it was best to have the population at large in France believe see the French army liberating the country, there was apparently one condition:
De Gaulle's division must not contain any black soldiers.

We now have a (half) black president, and people nowadays probably fail to realize how recently we find blatant, institutionalized racism in the US. Having grown up in southern Louisiana and Mississippi in the 1970s, I can attest that the general sentiment then was that blacks should stop complaining -- after all, slavery ended more than a century before.

But recent research has revealed that, in many ways, things actually got worse for black Americans in the decades since the Civil War. I am currently reading this book and have this one on my list. And then, of course, there is the one published just a few years ago that led to this website.

The irony of Nazi Germany's racial ideology is not only that it indirectly led to the creation of a Jewish state, but also that it forced the United States to rid itself of at least the most obvious similarities.

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