Like the many before, this July 4th, we will bask in our bastion of Americana: barbecuing with friends, wandering the national mall while cloaked in flag apparel or drinking diluted beer in the bed of a pick-up truck while a baritone voice echoes “built Ford tough.” These are decidedly American images constructed through centuries of socialization and national identity – just as protesting the plight of Black Americans. This is why Colin Kaepernick’s defense of Black lives in the face of closely-held American symbols is unequivocally patriotic and the fact that he still has no job should require you to question your patriotism.
Simply, Colin’s commitment to human decency is as American as the colors sewn into the fabrics of the flag itself. And any failure to honor the former corrupts the true commitment to the latter.
There is a backlog of history supporting Colin’s choice to protest. Black labor constructed this country and further Black exploitation advanced it. Black lives are just as important to in the makeup of America as any other group. And Colin’s career may be over for defending it.
Last month, 49er’s General Manager, John Lynch suggested that Kaepernick speaks to the media to prove his desire to play. FOX Sports analyst, Ray Lewis, intimated that he must choose football over philanthropy. At every stop, there is a different requirement to demonstrate that he is more American than he is Black, with no regard to a notion that for Blacks, true Americanism is existing as both.
In his Blackness, he has existed in a country that has been characteristically American in dismissing his pleas for equal protection. Instead, he must apologize for offending the sensibilities of people who don’t give a damn about his people being underserved and executed. He must answer for his why he chose to deny his Americanness. In order to defend America, like a long list of predecessors and peers, he must humbled.
Humbling Black people is decidedly American.
Forcing their apology for Blackness is decidedly American.
Gaslighting them into believing their innate Blackness is not respectable to gain economic, political or social mobility is decidedly American.
And somehow, these American behaviors are allowed to impede the very Americanness of protest, the very Americanness of Black livelihood.
Blackness cannot be separated from America, despite that being a very American expectation. Blacks are expected to check their Blackness at the door when entering a college campus, or moving into an unfamiliar neighborhood, or speaking to the police. Any refusal could trigger suspicion of being somewhere they don’t belong or worse.
This racism is decidedly American.
The NFL, by branding and military adjacency, traffics in patriotism. An affront to it’s red, white and blue, star-studded shield is a necessary affront to American culture. Colin’s stance is seen as not only an attack on the flag, but also an attack to an American giant. But It takes no more than an undeveloped mind to interpret this country’s racism this superficially.
America firmly and loudly stands against any easily identifiable act of racism. Donald Sterling instructing his mistress not to bring Blacks to his game? Easy. Racist. Riley Cooper’s threat to “fight every nigger in here”? Easy. Racist. The NFL’s laughable attempts to comply with a Rooney Rule that was it never wanted in the first place? Not as easy to attract the righteous indignation from those who don’t suffer.
Surely Black people aren’t the only ones smart enough to understand these type of issues as racism. That would go astray from every Black stereotype that America holds with an emphatic grip. The issue is that this is not seen as an American problem, it is seen as an “others” problem.
To ignore Black issues is to ignore American issues and any attempt to castigate Colin for his efforts and activism is to demerit Black issues. This has become one of the few unquestionably Un-American conceits to be normalized. Since it requires more than a superficial act of racism or a trigger word, white America refuses to use it as a lens to reexamine its commitment to this country.
On this day, celebrate with friends, watch the fire-lit night sky, and hold true your American values. But also know that your allyship is toothless and insulting if it is conditioned on casting Blackness aside for your American symbolism. The day one can guiltlessly assert their patriotism is the day America can begin to make racism Un-American.