'Black Americans Built America': The Cast of Without Remorse on the Complexities of Black Patriotism

Black Americans are constantly struggling with an array of paradoxes—one of which is our sense of “home.” For many of us, America is the only “home” we know—and we all know the reason. As such, America is only “home” in its tangible sense...particularly because we can never fully feel comfortable here.

In Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, Michael B. Jordan and Jodie Turner-Smith’s characters reflect upon this as Black soldiers fighting for a country that doesn’t love them back. Can Black Americans fully be patriotic in this country, given the grotesque history as well as the ongoing affront to Black lives?

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More info on the upcoming film, from Amazon Prime’s official press release sent to The Root:

An elite Navy SEAL uncovers an international conspiracy while seeking justice for the murder of his pregnant wife in Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, the explosive origin story of action hero John Clark – one of the most popular characters in author Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan universe. When a squad of Russian soldiers kills his family in retaliation for his role in a top-secret op, Sr. Chief John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan) pursues the assassins at all costs. Joining forces with a fellow SEAL (Jodie Turner-Smith) and a shadowy CIA agent (Jamie Bell), Kelly’s mission unwittingly exposes a covert plot that threatens to engulf the U.S. and Russia in an all-out war. Torn between personal honor and loyalty to his country, Kelly must fight his enemies without remorse if he hopes to avert disaster and reveal the powerful figures behind the conspiracy.

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“The problem with narratives of American patriotism is that they ignore the fact that America was and is a colonial state,” The Root Senior Reporter Terrell Star wrote in 2017. “Colonial powers are violent and racist by their very nature. America’s military is not a protector of peace. It is an enforcer of colonialism. Indeed, Black Americans have died in America’s wars but do not fully experience the freedom that comes with that sacrifice as white people do.”

And yet, as Senior Staff Writer Michael Harriot wrote that same year, “Black people built this country. Not like everyone else. More than everyone else. For free.”

“They absolute can [be patriotic],” The Root Staff Writer Jay Connor, who served in the U.S. Air Force, told me. “But considering the military is an extension of colonialism, and the same freedoms and liberties Black military members fight for they can never hope to achieve in this country, is that patriotism worth the risk or sacrifice?”

We posed the same question about Black patriotism to the cast of Without Remorse, given the fact that the main characters are Black Navy SEALs.

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“I think there’s a balance between the two,” Jordan told The Root. “People who serve this country—who are patriots—don’t necessarily agree with the politics and treatment [executed by] the government, law enforcement or systemic oppression that’s in place for our communities and our culture. I think when people try to make you choose one or the other and try to define your idea of one by feeling a certain way about another isn’t completely fair.”

“I think it’s really hard to be Black in America,” Lauren London (who portrays John’s wife Pam) added, noting that it is a sensitive subject and that her uncle fought in the Vietnam War. “I think where we can stand in and stand up, we should.”

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“I think Black Americans are the most patriotic,” Turner-Smith noted. “Criticism comes from a place of loving and wanting it to be better. At the end of the day, Black Americans built America.”

Check out the video above to also see London and Turner-Smith reflect on what drew them to their respective roles. For London, Pam serving as “a guiding light” was true to her own life experiences, while Turner-Smith connected with the “badass” nature of Karen Greer.

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Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse drops on Amazon Prime on April 30.

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.

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