Protest is Patriotic
I want to talk a little bit about some of the things that I've been witnessing over the last few months. I've been seeing and hearing a lot over this past year and not one to be very vocal about all of the nonsense that I've seen and witnessed on social media but I think that given the tenor of what's been going on lately and with a little coaxing, I think it's about time for me to step up to the mic and put some finality and clarity on some of the subjects that I think people are confusing or outright ignorant of.
Lately, there's been this huge debate about a certain football player and his means of protesting something that is of an egregious nature, at best. Colin Kaepernick, for those who don't know, is a national football league quarterback who recently decided that standing up during the national anthem is something he's not willing to do based on some perceived injustices he's witnessed, like the rest of us, over the past year or so.
The perceived injustices are the killing of unarmed black men and women by police officers and those same police officers not being held accountable to any real degree for their more than questionable actions. Now again we would like to believe that we trust our justice system to protect us from all manner of, well… injustice. However, there has been an overabundance of visual and procedural evidence to show that most of these police officers were negligent or outright dysfunctional in their duties, perhaps criminally so.
In reaction to these apparent injustices, there have been violent protests, riots, and unfortunately the killing of law enforcement officers across the country. These protests have been met with scrutiny and have been decried as being perpetrated by rogue organizations and thugs. I would tend to agree that violent protests and the killing of innocent police officers don’t solve a thing. However, one would have to ask themselves if not for the injustices that these individuals have personally felt and witnessed, would these incidents happen at all?
Colin Kaepernick decided that in his own way, he was going to peacefully protest the injustices that he had seen. Given his stature in the media and on the sports echelon, he decided that these cops, law enforcement officials, and the judicial system of this country were not holding themselves in the execution of their sworn duties, to the standards that each American should enjoy and feel represented fairly under. In the most symbolic, peaceful and powerful way he could muster, he decided that standing up for a flag or song, and, for the most part, a country, that has shown disdain for those who are not of a particular persuasion, was not the right thing to do.
This was his nonviolent way of showing solidarity with those who don't have a powerful voice. In doing so, he met with such criticism that I personally have not ever seen as it pertains to the killing of innocent black people by law enforcement over the past year or so. It seems his message was lost and some nationalistic fervor that is almost sickening. His stance against the killing of innocent black men and women by law enforcement and the injustices perpetrated by a justice system that refuses to hold these officers accountable was lost in some kind of patriotic firestorm that nearly drowned out the most important reasoning for the stance and message.
I heard things that were akin to treason and words use like “traitorous” or “un-American”. I heard people talk about how much money he makes as a pro athlete and how thankful he should be that he lives in a country where he's afforded the right to do that. There were even calls for him to leave the country if he doesn't "love this nation." This is the same fervor that I had not witnessed when several African-Americans were killed under extremely questionable circumstances by law enforcement.
I have to tell you that I was supremely disappointed in the segment of this nation that took this stance. It really just brought home the fact that what most African-Americans feel about this country and most of its citizens is absolutely true… Our lives mean less to most Americans than that flag and that song. Our black lives in all actuality mean nothing to most of America.
But I say all of that to say this.
I am an Army veteran and have lived and worked around the military most of my life. As a matter of fact, my life since I was an infant has been in one way or another associated with the United States armed forces. I come from a military family where both of my parents and my brother served this country. My parents retired from the Air Force and spent twenty more years working for the federal government. I currently work for the Department of Defense going on fifteen years.
I want to make something absolutely clear… No one is going to be more of a patriot for this country than myself or my family. Further, no individual is going to give me a class on what patriotism is, or, what that flag stands for! Knock it off!
I will tell you that it literally sickens me to hear and read some of the things I've heard and read in regard to who’s a patriot, who should be in this country, and the rights of an American citizen to protest their government. Just like you've heard over the past few days from literally thousands of soldiers, sailors and civilians who work for the government, we sacrifice our lives and our time so that people like Colin Kaepernick have the right to safely and freely air their grievances in a peaceful manner. When some of you who have only “played house” over the last 30 or 40 years, try to somehow adhere your personal feelings to what is “ample” support of soldiers or those in the military, you sound ridiculous, uninformed, disingenuous and corny to those of us who have honorably served.
It’s absolutely amazing to me how people of that ilk will invoke the name of Martin Luther King and his peaceful protest marches, but have so much anger toward Mr. Kaepernick and the way he decides to peacefully protest. It's so hypocritical it's almost embarrassing, or should be if it's not. Mr. Kaepernick isn't burning stores, looting, or shooting cops. He's decided to peacefully exhibit that he's not happy with our current judicial system and how it's dealing with those we feel are perpetuating injustices. I wish that people would stop trying to tell me and those of the same mind frame or persuasion as to how we should air our grievances. I keep hearing "well, there's a better way to do this…” It's such hypocritical nonsense. They only want us to protest in a way that is comfortable for them… in a way that doesn’t cause irritation. Non-threatening and for the most part, ineffective. March, yell out some nifty slogans, then calm down and get back to status quo. That, in the minds of most non-ethnics, is the acceptable and American way. It’s really an exercise in utter futility. God forbid we make your conscious uncomfortable. God forbid we ask to actually be heard.
And if I hear one more person say that he should be thankful that he lives in the country where he can make the money he earns, I'm gonna projectile vomit across the room! If the wealthy can't take a stand for an injustice, perceived or not, then who should? These are exactly the people we want standing up for the rights of the poor and disenfranchised. Isn't that what we talk about all the time? Isn’t that why we created super heroes in comics and the movies? Isn’t that why we created police forces with the leeway and allowances to do things we normal, everyday people cannot or are not willing to do? And further, I'm sure that Mr. Kaepernick is paying his fair share of taxes on his substantial income so, in essence, he's paid for the right to protest peacefully about some of the actions, or inactions, of the government he has to live under. Talk that “pampered athlete” or “be thankful you’re rich in America” noise to someone who's not paying their taxes or who doesn't live in this country under a literal “injustice” system.
Finally, I want to talk about this Uber-patriotic BS we go through every time an American of color decides to say something about our government. There is a facet of our country that has made a living by saying that they are anti-big-government and pro-American. Somehow they've gotten away with being super-American and anti-government, pro-separatist, pro-conservative-religious/Christian and nobody gives two shits about it. In some circles, it’s truly American to think that way. And, on a larger, yet, ironically, more subtle level, accepted, even championed. However, when an African-American says anything that might be perceived as anti-government or anti-American-establishment as it pertains to oppression and disparities in the justice system, then torrents of vitriol come pouring out of a certain segment of our population with Old Glory waving in the background and the National Anthem as the soundtrack. All of this just leads minorities to speak truth to power when the noise, inaction and racism becomes unavoidable and unbearable. It really just proves exactly what goes through an African-American’s mind to be the truth when we publicly ask for justice. Yet you'll hear cries of us using our "race card" or that were just imagining it. More so, we are our own worst enemy… i.e., “You’re the only reason for your problems…” Big, big, exasperated sigh…
I'm getting sick of having to say to certain people that you cannot imagine what it means to be black in this country. It gets tiresome to have to explain the nuances of the “new prejudice” and subtle bigotry we deal with without having to look at someone’s white smirking face or the roll of their eyes. This idea that, because we've elected a so-called "African-American" president, or that you might have one or two black people you know by first name, and kind of like, there is no more racism, is asinine. And yes, we are not suffering at the hands of the blatant Jim Crow practices nor are we subject to daily manifestations of violent white supremacy. But rest assured that the mechanism still exists, is functioning, and, as with technology, streamlined, advanced and less clunky, noisy and cumbersome. There are still those in the public and private sector who practice racism. Don't be in denial when someone tells you that certain people given certain powers are abusing them in the name of white supremacy or racism. I heard one comedian say that he would love to meet a “good” racist. He said he would love to meet the racist who would give money to a homeless person but in the same breath say "but I still can't stand them niggers," and still believe, and are still perceived by many as “good” people. It’s laughable and maddening at the same time!
If any of you out there believe that there are no racists in the police force or in our criminal justice system you are living in denial and you’re doing it purposefully. In this day and age you cannot tell me on any level that you do not know what racism looks, sounds, and smells like. Either you choose to ignore it, or on some level you find comfort in it.
Lastly stop using this "black on black crime" nonsense as a mantra. That's a whole subject within itself. The final say on black on black crime is that blacks tend to kill their own kind just like whites tend to do the same. Blacks kill blacks for the most part and whites kill whites at damn near exactly the same clip with a little overlap for good measure either way. There are not marauding troops of Negroes killing white people wholesale. That's just not happening. There has been, however, a history of marauding white people killing black people with evidence to back it up. And even though it may not be occurring in the blatant terms of yesteryear, one only has to look at racially skewed crime statistics, inordinate and lengthy sentencing for similar crimes committed by whites and recent judicial malfeasance history to see that not only is this taking place but it's being perpetrated subtly, covertly and legally. To put a point on the black on black crime issue… we are not talking about what criminals do. Homicidal criminals, be they white or black, kill anybody and everybody, no matter the race. So we are not speaking on the behaviors of the criminal minded individual. The issue is, and should not be steeped in ambiguity, we have those in law enforcement killing innocent blacks and Latinos, who are unarmed, without real provocation and there is nothing being done substantially to rectify it. The ground truth of it is that police officers are given the benefit of the doubt in most situations, which unjustly precludes any “innocent until proven guilty” clause that may exist in our justice system. The travesty in this regard is when sketchy circumstances surrounding the killings of these individuals by police officers and jailers come to light, and the vilification of the victim begins. They besmirch the reputation of the supposed and presumed “innocent” suspect by bringing out past indiscretions as a means of devaluing them personally and justifying their deaths. “Innocent until proven guilty”S means nothing at this juncture. Rogue police officers are given license to brutalize at will, just because the suspect is either dark skinned or has a not-so-pristine past, or both.
That's the issue. It's a police brutality issue. Anyone who brings up black on black crime during this discourse is pretty much saying, "since blacks kill other blacks then it should be okay for police to kill blacks also." It's such nonsense to think in those terms.
There is a huge problem in this country given the day and age we live in. I wish that people would stop believing that there is no more racism and that their preconceived ideas about race are accurate and their prejudice, justified.
We as African-Americans, with emphasis on “Americans”, should protest our position if we feel justified as long as we do it peacefully. No one, and I do mean no one, is going to tell me or should tell anyone what's the proper way to peacefully protest. To do so is, in my opinion most unpatriotic and like I said in another post, borderline evil.
We as Americans need to understand that we should be respectful of our flag and the pomp that goes along with it. However, we should definitely stop worshiping it!
The rhetoric that I have heard over the past few days borderlines on worship rather than revering and respecting. When the lives of innocent African Americans and Latinos become of lesser value than a song and a flag, what kind of country, or better yet, what kind of people would dare call themselves upstanding and “good” people, even more so, “good” Americans, in support of that ideology? When a song and a flag become more valuable than righting the injustices perpetrated on innocent Americans, who fell victim to a racist system, with no recourse or remedy, then the moral fiber of this country is absolutely skewed, bizarre and wicked.
The foundation of this country, the inception of our government, is the epitome of protest. The founders of this country protested against the powers that be in the most epic way… they went to war! The Civil War was one of the greatest examples of a citizenry protesting against the government for something they believed was their right to possess and practice, even if it was on the wrong side of morality and an inherently vile practice. So for those of you who have that mentality, you really need to shut the hell up when it comes to criticizing someone’s right to protest or become “rebellious” because of perceived slights and/or injustices! Don't they call it the "rebel" flag? Protest IS patriotic!
In closing I would tell anyone who considers themselves a true American that, innocent American lives are not less important than a flag and a song. I would tell them that every tax paying American who decides to peacefully protest against a perceived injustice, whether they be rich or poor, is truly an American exercising their rights. Any of you out there who is vociferous about a perceived insult against the national anthem or our flag, but not stand up for the innocent lives that were taken by reprobate police officers or diminished by a situationally skewed justice system that purposefully does not protect a certain segment of our citizenry, or allows racist ideologies to germinate and take root, are probably the worst type of American, or person, for that matter, there is. And you know exactly what I'm talking about.
You hate to hear us say that “black lives matter”. It bothers you. You want to counter it with “all lives matter”. This is the mindset of those who really don't believe that black lives matter and try to diminish the obvious. White lives have ALWAYS mattered. History absolutely proves this out. It's a damn shame that we have to even come up with a simplistic and borderline stupid slogan for our lives to be on par with yours.
Racism does exist. To say that it doesn’t speaks more to your ignorance or dismissal of the value of our lives. To say stupid crap like “it’s not as bad as it was…” or bring out some racially slanted data on crime and the inner city is absolute propaganda and is devoid of truly understanding history, social science, bigotry, in essence, the hand that the government, old and new, has played in creating the scene for all of the ills of the disenfranchised.
Basically the best case for most closet racists is for us to, “shut up, be quiet, stay over there, smile and be thankful no matter how we treat you. You’re lucky to be here.” To them I say, “Your racism is evil, of Satan, if you believe in that kind of stuff, and honestly, truly against so-called ‘American Values’.”
Mr. Kaepernick is a small issue within a huge problem in this country. His actions are best described as empty and, in all reality, meaningless in the scope of things. But, it has to be said that his actions are situationally valuable, right here and right now, for the time
being, because it has truly shed some cleansing light on what’s at stake in the current climate of the day and what that means for us in the next four years, either way.
I would urge most of you critics of Mr. Kaepernick and anyone of color who decides to hold this government accountable for the actions of those who represent it, to really take a look at yourselves in the mirror and ask, “Do I really believe that the Constitution is for ALL people of this country? Am I really and truly, a good person?”
If your answer to the first question is no, then the answer to the second question is, quite honestly, and almost literally, a no brainer.