A Convenient and Privileged Patriotism

26 09 2017

Colin-KaepernickIt’s really rather convenient, or should I say a privilege, for us to completely avoid the real issue confronting our nation today!  What on earth is wrong with us?

Colin Kaepernick’s taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem last year was no more an attack on veterans, than it was a denial of his love for this country.  It was simply his way, as a Black man, of protesting what he perceived to be a color bias in police departments around our country – a perception that is actually quite difficult to deny.  After the deaths of Trevon Martin, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, and countless others, Colin had had enough.  And taking a knee was the least he could do.

He didn’t start a riot in downtown San Francisco.  He didn’t go on a shooting rampage and kill a cop or a veteran.  He didn’t storm the halls of Congress and demand that action be taken to stem the tide of unwarranted police killing of people of color.  All he did, was quietly, humbly, and respectfully, take a knee during the playing of the national anthem, at a football game, in attempt to raise our awareness of serious problem affecting America: racism!

But we white Americans don’t want to talk about racism, do we?  We don’t want to stop to analyze why police officers, in their own words, seem to “only shoot Black people.” We don’t want to consider the reasons behind the statistics that more Black and Brown people than white people, are not only stopped for traffic offenses, but then searched. Worse yet, we don’t want to talk about why, when we ARE aware of such statistics, we simply conclude that they only reveal what we already know – people of color commit more traffic offenses than white people!

No!  White America doesn’t want to talk about any of this.  We don’t want to have a conversation about why for every 1 dollar of wealth held by a Black household, White households hold 13 dollars.  We don’t want to have a conversation about the lasting effects of not just legalized slavery, that ended more than 100 years ago, but the institutional enslavement that continues today, in laws that subtly but effectively continue to hold back and hold down communities of color.  We don’t want to have a conversation about what it is inside of us, that causes us to cross to the other side of the street when we see a Black teenage boy walking towards us, or why we lock the doors of our cars when we drive thru certain parts of town.

Such issues are simply too hard for us to deal with.  So let’s talk about patriotism instead, shall we?  Let’s call those who are frustrated by police violence against Black men, son’s of bitches!  Let’s call them unAmerican, challenge their love of country, and question their respect for veterans.  Let’s conveniently shift the conversation, and follow the lead of the most repugnant president this country has ever known, and make this all about a flag and a song.   Let’s allow ourselves to be distracted by the method, so we don’t have to deal with the message!

As I sit in my living room watching Monday Night Football, listening to Jordan Sparks sing our National Anthem, with Psalm 31:8-9 tatooed on her hand (look it up!), my heart is kneeling in solidarity with my Black brothers and sisters.  And not because I don’t love my country, or because I want to disrespect those who have fought so valiantly for the freedoms that I enjoy; but because as an American, and as a follower of Jesus, I have a responsibility to remember that injustice anywhere, threatens justice everywhere, and that Jesus always – yes ALWAYS – stood on the side of the marginalized and oppressed.

America, we cannot allow ourselves to be distracted from the real issue that is before this nation that we ALL love.  We cannot allow our President’s bully pulpit to conveniently move the conversation from the tough issues of our day, to the matters that only we privileged want to consider.  And we cannot allow his handlers to dismiss the blatant racism that is behind his inflammatory words and actions, so that this moment is lost and nothing changes . . . yet again.

Let’s stop the talking about patriotism; for this is not about patriotism.  It’s about that other ‘ism’: the one we white people don’t want to talk about; the one that if left unaddressed, will only continue to divide and destroy our country, from the inside out.

People of color have been bearing the burden of America’s original sin for decades. But today, White America is being given the opportunity to share that burden.  And we simply cannot afford to squander the opportunity by conveniently shifting the conversation from them message to the method, and make what is going on today about our white, privileged understanding of patriotism.

Singing about a star-spangled banner, waving over a ‘land of the free’, doesn’t make it so. That is something that only WE can do.  Together.  So let’s stop worry about a song.  For the problem in America today is not about other people kneeing down, but rather it’s about white people failing to stand up . . . to injustice, oppression, and racism . . . not in some place far away, but right here, in the America that we ALL, love!

 


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2 responses

27 09 2017
Bob Carignan

In 1956 I won the State of Connecticut governors award for my paper on Racism on the rise in the USA. I was just thirteen years of age. In the years that have passed since then I have seen it get better and now I feel we are back where it began, it has come full circle.
I am white, whatever that is, my great grandmother was a full blooded Native American from the Iroquois. My grandfather, her son, only spoke French. My Father married a woman who was the daughter of Polish immigrants, they did not speaki English…ever. What am I after I come out of that blender? An American.
I am proud of my award in 1956,I was presented it at my grammer school graduation by the Governor and my parents were beaming. Are we ever going to get over racism and discrimination? I wonder.

7 11 2017
Bob Melone

Thanks for sharing Bob — I only wish I had an answer to your question!

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