History enthusiasts are known to participate in various historical reenactments as a hobby and an educational activity.
While these hobbyists invest in detailed costumes and accessories, some go a little too far to make the experience as authentic as possible.
Redditor “Sullie-19“—a WWI aficionado—was reminded very quickly that racism was a shameful part of American history.
The Original Poster (OP) shared his unfortunate encounter with a fellow WWI buff who refused to play nice.
“I’ve always been interested in military history. Especially WWI, and WWII.”
“It’s been a fascination since my early childhood playing those really old Battlefield, and Call Of Duty games.”
“I collect a bunch of WWI stuff. From British uniforms, gas masks, all the way to Imperial German flags. It’s just something I guess most people…especially a Black kid…wouldn’t be into. Like me!”
“My best friend also collects military items. He mostly has WWII German, and Soviet Cold War items. But, he bought a German WWI uniform so he could match up with me.”
Enjoying their mutual fascination with wartime history, the two hadn’t encountered issues.
“We’ve never really had problems. We would show off some of our things for history classes in high school. No one really connected anything racial.”
“We decided to join a club near us that does WWI/WWII/Vietnam War reenactments. You gotta have a close to authentic uniform, and a gun that the faction would use in the era. Done!”
“We decided to do WWI reenactments. Everyone was nice…but one guy had a problem. He was an older guy. Around 55+. He told us our uniforms were looking great, but…he had a problem with me.”
The WWI simulation turned out to be more authentic than he was prepared for.
“He says: ‘I will say. That uniform is more spot on than others here. But, not to be mean. Black people didn’t really serve in WWI’.”
“I’m not putting anything against you…it’s just that Black people never did well on the battlefield.”
The OP admitted to being disappointed.
He countered with historical information about the role of Black men in the infantry regiment of the New York Army National Guard.
“The Harlem Hellfighters were pretty notable in WWI? They worked under the French, and took out German trenches bare handed, or with a knife?”
“Pretty famous Black soldiers man. Don’t forget the 350,000 others on the front!”
This person decided to speak on behalf of other participants.
He came up with an excuse not to include the OP in the reenactment.
“He kinda just scoffs and says: ‘Well, that was later in the war. This reenactment is early in the war. So…you don’t fit. I’d recommend coming back some other time. So…uh…nobody gets uncomfortable with someone like you around.'”
“He walked away after that.”
Though the man was inevitably removed from the festivities, those who shared his view harassed the OP.
“People around us were pretty disgusted. He ended up getting banned later that day after people reported him enough.”
“Which resulted in him trying to get his friends there to heckle me. Kinda nice hearing ‘there’s the ni**er’ on the battlefield. They all hated me, and tried everything to get me banned. Nothing worked.”
“But…a huge part of the organization was sick of it. So…I got a lot of heat from everyone.”
“Some felt as if we were just ruining the reenactments for everyone. I ended up leaving the organization. Planning on joining a new one at some point.”
The OP asked AITA (Am I the A**hole) for wanting to participate in the WWI reenactment as a Black man.
Anonymous strangers on the internet were asked to weigh in with:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH – No A**holes Here
Redditors called NTA and had plenty to share about Black soldiers who laid their lives on the line for fellow combatants of all colors.
This person called out the man who started the issue as TA (the a**hole), regardless of his purported expertise.
“NTA. Not only are you not an a**hole, that guy is historically and factually incorrect.”
“There were, without a doubt, Black soldiers in WWI, even in the early parts. And WWII. And Vietnam. And pretty much any other war.”
“Edit: Black soldiers from the United States entered combat in 1917, the same year the US even joined the war.”
“Not to mention the African subjects forced to fight in the war by their European colonizers from the very beginning of the war. The longer I think about it, the bigger of a moron this guy becomes.”
“Edit Part II: Also is he just going to like… ignore the naval battles of WWI?”
“There have been Black sailors in the Royal Navy since at least the War of 1812, though there are accounts of Black men sharing their stories from even earlier service, despite their ships’ logs not accurately displaying their names/no paper records from their service existing.”
“There were even 14 Black female yeomen who enlisted in the U.S. Navy during WWI.”
“I am so mad I’m still at this post like an hour later. I have fallen into a rabbit hole of Black service people in early wars. I am so mad. That guy is such a racist douche.”
“Edit Part III: To be perfectly clear, that guy would have been an a**hole no matter what, even if there wasn’t a singular Black soldier involved in WWI.”
“Reenacting is for anyone who takes an interest, full stop. My emphasis on the historical inaccuracy is because a lot of history buffs like to gloss over the involvement of minorities to fit their own narratives.”
“This contributes to the widespread misattribution of accomplishments, heroic sacrifices, and general bada**ery minorities have always contributed to history.”
“Nothing makes my blood boil like people not being able to access, remember, or celebrate their own histories because of bulls**t like that.” – QueenMoogle
“He was just being racist and he had no clue what he was talking about. It’s just blatant racism.”
“I’m very sorry that you had to go through this. It’s beyond disgusting.”
“Not only Black people were on the line, they (in France anyway) put them on the front line. There were between 400,000 to 500,000 African soldiers fighting for France during WWI.”
“Definitely NTA.” – _CandyPerfumeGirl
And while on the subject of authenticity:
“Men who were 55+ didn’t fight on the battlefield either because they would have been deemed too old for front line work. So according to this old dude’s logic he should have taken a hike as well.”
“Someone can’t participate because their skin color wasn’t accurate, but an inaccurate age doesn’t matter?”
“It’s a godd**n reenactment, who cares?” – Superior91
Meanwhile, theatre activities across the pond have adopted a new policy.
“British theatre companies have begun enacting a race-neutral policy in casting.”
“You can see Asian people and Black people playing famous White nobles and royalty from medieval and early modern Europe. At some point, you acknowledge it’s fiction and it doesn’t particularly matter.”
“Like, that was the whole point behind the casting of ‘Hamilton,’ the idea that these works of art can teach lessons and have themes that are universal and not divided by race.”
“Same with reenactments: the history of famous battles is something that anyone can be interested in learning about.”
“It’s also the history of my godd**n nation, and I don’t really care if there weren’t any Asians in the Civil War (actually, there were some, since California was a Union state), it’s still the history of my country and maybe I want to participate in a reenactment.”
“And it’s not like the audience doesn’t already know most of the people were White. If Alexander Hamilton can be a brown Puerto Rican guy, then a dude in the f’king trenches can be Black.” – EpirusRedux
The authenticity obsessed participant was not winning in any capacity on the makeshift battlefield.
“He didn’t even do a good job of hiding his racism.”
“‘Black people never did well on the battlefield’ and ‘you don’t fit. I’d recommend coming back some other time. So… uh… nobody gets uncomfortable with someone like you around’ What the f’k?”
“Who said they were uncomfortable other than you?!”
“Also, f’k those other people who got pissed at you because those guys decided to make your life hell.”
“The racists were the ones causing the problem. If they had kicked them out faster they wouldn’t have had to worry about that, now would they? They’re part of the problem.” – roseofjuly
Nobody was trying to rewrite history here. And some of the history buffs needed an education.
Redditors agreed, Mr. Authentic just bombed.