Am I patriotic? You’d think the answer to this would be an easy yes, right? I mean, I did retire from the Air Force and deployed 9 times in my 20 years. So surely I MUST be patriotic, right?
By some people’s standards, they would say I am not patriotic. When Colin Kaepernick exercised his right of freedom of speech, I defended him. I didn’t throw out my Nikes or burn anything in some self-righteous display of patriotism. There was nothing violent or disrespectful about simply taking a knee to protest injustices he saw. It was his protest.
“But don’t you feel like he’s disrespecting you and those in the military by kneeling during the national anthem?”
In short, no. He’s doing the very thing that this country is founded on. He gets to use his platform however he sees fit, understanding that his employer may see otherwise. It’s none of my damn business whether he should be fired or not. Did he do something that directly hurts the military by kneeling during a song meant to stir up patriotic emotions?
NO. No, he did not. I felt like pain or disappointment any time someone speaks out on the injustices they see in this country. If I don’t see the injustices that they see, I ask myself why. Why does this person who does not look like me see this thing I don’t see? Because I can’t see it. I will never experience the suspicious looks Black men receive from white people in public spaces. No one will ever look at me and mistake me for anything other than white EVER. And so, white people’s brains conjure up an idea of who Black men are without even realizing they’ve done it. See a group of Black men coming towards you in a store and your automatic reaction is to hold your purse closer, grab your daughter’s hand to keep her close, and avert your eyes? That’s your internal biases telling you that Black men are scary and might rob you and/or hurt you and your daughter. You look away because you are scared and maybe ashamed because you sort of realize that’s a racist way to be. Examine these moments. Why did you react that way? Why did you feel threatened by a group of strangers in a public place? Can you see why, in lesser times of enlightenment, laws were made to prevent the movement and grouping of Black people? It’s all based in fear.
Now, let’s go back to Kaepernick. What did he do that was unpatriotic? Kneel during the national anthem, right? “Disrespected” a song written in 1814, used officially starting in 1916, and not even named the national anthem until 1931? “Disrespected” a token, the flag, meant to represent this country? A country founded on the backs of men and women who looked like him? Who might’ve been his ancestors? What about America the Beautiful or My Country, Tis of Thee? Tis of Thee? Who even speaks like that anymore? NO ONE IN THIS COUNTRY. But it’s a song that honors our nation, isn’t that important? Am I not unpatriotic for making fun of its old english words?
Was it patriotic when white men stormed the Greenwood area of Tulsa, Oklahoma because Dick Rowland (a Black man) supposedly stepped on Sarah Page’s foot? Or whatever actually happened? Surely, it couldn’t have been something so simple as that, right? It was likely a collection of things, not the least of which was segregation that upset Black men. And then white men became infuriated and destroyed the thriving Greenwood, where Black families owned successful businesses and took care of their own needs. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, but don’t be too successful because we will be jealous and want to put you back in poverty, where you belong! Bruce’s Beach? Hell, no. Black people don’t deserve a lovely beachside resort for vacation. Eminent domain that shit right away from them. We cannot have “THOSE” people enjoying themselves so close to us! Destroy hope among the Black community. Put them back in their place!
Am I patriotic?
Yes, for what this country could and should be. A place where everyone really does have the opportunity to thrive and there aren’t black neighborhoods and white neighborhoods. Where you can actually have a non-white sounding name and not automatically have your resume or application thrown away. Where governors aren’t vowing to spend their time banning CRT and other non-existent bogeymen they claim to see in a state’s education system. Where anyone can take a class on history that doesn’t whitewash slavery, or significant contributions from non-white citizens, women, or any other maginalized group. Where there’s no rally-cry of “white men are victims too!!” or “All lives matter!!” Where people think critically and instead of being fueled by anger at the unknown or the “other”, they are fueled by a desire to make things better for EVERYONE, even the people that don’t look like them. And that’s what patriotism is to me. Making this country better for everyone, regardless of who they are, what they look like, how much money they make, what’s in their pants, where they came from, and what education level they have. That’s the country we all deserve.
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