Our military personnel do a lot for our community. Here at Purposely Awakened we want to acknowledge them by letting them know that they are appreciated. Emmanuel Mtika is a true American Patriot. I recently interviewed him where he chatted on his inspirations and upbringing.
Tell myself and the reader’s about yourself and your upbringing.
I was born in the country of Malawi in southeastern Africa. My family came to the States when I was six years old. I grew up in a God-fearing family. We lived in the state of Nebraska where most of the population was White. My parents always told me to see people and not color. I accepted every race and background, as I was also a minority in the states regardless of what and who I met. Most of my friends were White. That is just how things played out to be. It wasn’t until junior high that I became friends with other Afro-Americans. Honestly, I did not know how to act as it was new territory for me. I remember my father saying,”Do not aspire to compete with the Blacks but try to raise yourself to the standards of the Whites.” I later realized what he meant in that, it is a White man’s world. Anything different than that will make for you a hard lifestyle. There were times I would speak in “ebonics” and my father would get angry at me. All of this was a trying time for my family as we were brought up in different times. From then on, I realized that I could speak to my Black friends in a different manner than my White friends.
Fast forward into college. That is when I realized how far apart I was from my own race. I felt more comfortable with Caucasians than African-Americans. I had dated mostly White girls and rarely found Black girls attractive. The summer before starting college, I had dated two different White girls. To me, it just seemed normal. The second White girl had come to visit me when I was in college. After being together for awhile is when she invited me to her parents home. There was a strange feeling when I first got there. It was not a welcoming feeling at all. I felt as if I was under investigation from the questions the mother was asking me. I later found out that her parents did not approve of interracial relationships. To me, it meant that they were racists. I cared for this girl a lot. Time and time again her parents would send very hurtful messages and calls to me. I simply thought that ‘love would win in the end’. At the school, I mainly went there to play football. The student in me had left after my senior year in high school. I rarely went to my classes, but always made it to the gym, practices and games. Eventually, I lost all my scholarships and had to leave. That is when I joined the Marine Corps.
What inspired you to become a service man to this country?
I was still with the girl whose parents hated my guts, to be honest. I thought that maybe joining the military would provoke them to accept me and have any type of respect for me. That was not the case. Within my first 6 months in the Marines, things came to an end. I became a cook in the Marines after I had failed an eye vision test for a motor vehicle driver. I was extremely disappointed when I had to sign to be a cook. I thought to myself, I’m simply going to make the best of this that I can. I got out in 2016 as a Sergeant. In a lot of ways, I feel as though I had not been used to my full extent as I never got the chance to deploy and other things.
How many years have you been a service man to this country?
Eleven months later, I move to Idaho and enlist in the National Guard. At this point, I had been in the Marines for four years (it felt like 20) and transitioned in the National Guard. I am coming up on 8 months in the Army National Guard.
Please describe the racial slander and injustice you encountered one night entering your home, was your property on the base?
This past summer, I was to do my first training in the Army. It was just after the 4th of July. I get home on the 5th of July at 10:30 p.m. and find some notebook paper hanging on the entrance to my small apartment. There were a total of 3 people living there. On top was a White gentleman and next to me, on the lower level, was a Hispanic lady. I lifted the paper to see what it was hiding or if it was a message to me. Under the paper, written in a Black sharpie, was the word ‘NIGGER’. My mind was racing thinking of what I had done or said to ANYONE for them to write such a word. Mind you, I don’t like using this word in ANY type of form. Even in songs or anything else, it raises an uneasy feeling inside me. I don’t let my friends call me that either. After I see this, I grab my pistol and put it in the back of my pants. I pack some clothes and gear that I need for my training the next morning for my annual training for the Guard. I drove to my work site and slept in my car, I MAYBE slept two hours that night.
Was and has this been the only racial injustice you’ve faced as a service man?
A few of my neighbors knew of my history. That I was a prior Marine and now in the Army. Some had even seen me in uniform. This was the first time that I had received racial injustice in this form. When you see such things, you begin to wonder what your worth truly is. Like, what else do I need to do to be accepted? Serving your country is not enough? What will it take for me to get a fair deal in your world? I remember telling myself, “From this point on, this is what I will remember EVERY US tragedy, celebration etc. that I am just a ‘NIGGER’. Understand that my feelings were through the roof during this time. I thought to how this country gets when 9/11 comes around. People post everywhere “Never Forget” but when it comes to treating minorities about the sick ways they treated the Native Americans, Chinese, African Americans, they want us to FORGET about it. To me, thats just straight BS!
Do you agree or disagree with Colin Kaepernick and his fellow athletes protest being a former football player of color seeing these constant social injustices?
I agree fully with Kaepernick’s and other athletes protest. I remember watching him play at Nevada. I didn’t know what type of player he would be but he proved himself on the field. He made a huge step in doing what he did. At first, I was very unsure of the whole idea. It was not until a few months ago where I TRULY understood. People who have no idea will say he was protesting against the military and whatever have you. I found out that one of his teammates was a veteran. Colin was first going to sit during the national anthem. His teammate told him that he should take a knee instead. That is what troops do when they have lost a comrade during battle/war. That is why he took a knee. A lot of people also don’t know that they sing along to an ALTERNATE version of the anthem. In the original version, there is a line that talks about slaves. One of my friend’s sisters is a history teacher. She knew nothing of there being an original version of the anthem. If people looked at the 3rd stanza of the national anthem, they could find out what Kaepernick is truly protesting when it comes to the flag. He has taken a lot of heat over what he believes in. There is a system in play that is meant for the ‘majority’ even though they are becoming the minority. You can look anywhere and find that minorities are being persecuted and judged on different terms than whites.
Do you see their protest as disrespectful to yourself and your colleagues as service men to this country, and would you participate if given the opportunity?
I do not see their protest as being disrespectful. People migrate to this country so that they can live the lives that they want to. Freedom of speech also being one of the biggest reasons. There is a MAJOR issue on how minorities are treated and dealt with. There is a professor named Jane Elliot. She is a white elderly lady that lays down the hard issue of race. In one video, she asks her white audience to raise their hand to see how many of them would change places with other minorities and would be happy from how they are treated. NONE of them raise their hands. People in this country KNOW and SEE the issue but since it does not effect them, they do not bother to say or do anything. I remember last year when I was playing collegiate football in Illinois. I saw my teammate raise a fist up and then he put it down during the national anthem. I was going to stand with him but out of fear, I stayed still. I felt like I took the easy road. I was ashamed of myself. On this team of young kids, I probably had the only right to take a knee being a veteran. This past season I coached high school football. I never once placed my hand over my heart. I stand there and pray for my team and coaches but when it comes to the flag, I know better.