Yesterday, before Dotard Don held his de facto Klan rally in Alabama, Shaun King took to his Facebook page and shared a post about an incident one hundred years ago to the day. It told the story of a young African American man who was chased down, beaten by angry whites and thrown in jail for his refusal to remove his hat when the flag marched past.
It was a good story and one I wished I had known during some of the many disagreements and downright arguments I have had with people close to me in recent weeks on the issue of the athletes (and others) who would choose to sit down as a sign of protest during the national anthem.
I have employed many arguments to try to make my point. First and foremost among these is that it is these athletes’ Constitutional right to have freedom of speech so long as they are not inciting violence or infringing on the rights and safety of others. No dice. They replied these athletes are hurting people because our veterans and their sacrifices were being disrespected.
I pointed out that many veterans support these athletes in their right to protest and the ones who died defended I guess our nation did so in order that we would ALL be able to be free to express ourselves in peaceful ways that did not violate the rights of others. Nope. They replied that a flag is a sacred thing and needs to be respected.
I pointed out that a flag, any flag, is a mere piece of cloth. It has only the significance one chooses to give to it. Thus, would they rather live in a free society where those who respected the flag did so willingly, thoughtfully and freely or a society that demanded blind obedience? Nope. The reply was, "well, you said this was something you, yourself wouldn’t do ( at the time I felt that this was a thing I wouldn't do but that anyone who did so had the right to protest without being harassed or losing their job ) so, what if you went to a game with your kids and people were burning and stomping a flag?"
I replied that none of the athletes who have protested have done this so, it was a red herring argument anyway but that, if that happened, I would use it as a moment to teach my kids. We would talk about why those people did what they did and what that flag means to us and whether we thought one side outweighed the other. We would not attack or boo or try to take the livelihood from those who did it. Then, their replies took even more of what I saw as a turn for the worse. They asked why I had posted things on Facebook saying exposed white supremacist police officers and nazis in Charlottesville should lose their jobs.
I referred them back to my point about the speech not hurting anyone and not infringing on the rights of others. Obviously, an officer sworn to uphold the law cannot do so if he or she is tainted by racial or any other prejudice. In addition, nazis are, well, nazis. Their whole thing is irradicating people different than them.
At this point, the conversations devolved into arguments and name-calling and all kinds of ugliness for a bit before we decided to cool off.
There, things were left. Now the whole business was an elephant in the room among friends. For this middle-aged white guy who always felt he was pretty open-minded it was another uncomfortable side-effect of Donny Two Scoops’ presidency.
Then I read Shaun King’s post. Then I heard Chicken Don’s words about how any athlete who won't salute the flag is a Son-of-a-bitch who should be taken away. It was like the scales falling off of my eyes. I had known for a long time that a whole bunch of things are true but, being who I was in terms of class, gender, sexual orientation and skin color in America, I didn't want to admit them.
These people I had argued with had grown up among blue collar union and other working folk in the Milwaukee area. They had gone to the same schools as me. I knew their parents or at least people like their parents.
The truth is that those they lived with growing up talked about people of color, women, LGBTQ people spoke the way my parents did. One parent used the n-word as well as “f----t” and “femi-nazi” but showed how "open-minded” they were by once having a black co-worker over to dinner, allowing my sister to go a young black girl's birthday party and explaining how many black people were good. Those were people. Just some were n-----s.
The other parent said they had wished they could have been a Freedom Rider and they are the reason I first started to read the speeches and writings of Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy. But there was no way her son or daughters would date a black or Hispanic person. There was no way they could have gay friends. And, just like Barack Obama’s grandmother, they locked those car doors or clutched that purse tighter when black men were around. My parents were good people deep down who loved their children with all their hearts and they probably were shades less racist than the generations before them but they said and did a lot of racist things.
When you grow up around that, you can't unlearn it. The impulses and urges it creates are always there. You will have biases. The difference, I believe, is that some of us choose not to be “Politically Correct” as I am often derided by my peers for being but to be a better person than to give in to my most base feelings and impulses.
Have I been angry and used “f----t” to describe an LGBTQ person or n----r to describe an African American person or at least felt a strong urge to do so? Unfortunately, I have. I am not proud if it. It is not who or what I strive to be but I have had a tinge of fear go up my spine when I left work alone while I worked in the inner city and saw a black teenager I didn't know approaching me. None of it is right but, it is true.
But that post and those words brought it home. This whole thing has NOTHING to do with the flag or pride in America or anything else. It is those in power asserting their will over their property. White, male, middle-class and upper-class America is saying to People of Color, women and others that they will let you in and let you make a living so long as you do nothing to make them uncomfortable and the best way to demonstrate you won't do this is by blind reverence to the symbols they put before you. It is all about subjugation.
So, if you are black, don't be Colin Kaepernik. If you are a woman, don't be the nurse in Utah who was arrested for standing up for her patient. If you are Native American don't get in the way of our pipeline. It goes on and on. White America will pretend we aren't racist and sexist as long as you comply. We might even let a very few of you join in our bounty.
In the end, I can have the conversation above with people I know all day long but it is the wrong one. The conversation a white male with a lot of privileges like myself needs to be having with my fellow whites is the much deeper one they don't want to hear. This is ALL about race. It scares the hell out of whites that the “other” is not compliant to their will and they are willing to be violent and hateful to get that compliance back. We need to call them on their game and ask them straight up if that is who they want to be. If they say it is, at least we all know where we stand.
In the end, some people will never be convinced to break their old ways but I do think a lot of people just need a mirror held up to know how ugly they have become so they can start to do what is right.
God bless Colin Kaepernik. It's time for this fat ass middle aged white guy to stop standing for the anthem no matter what the beer-soaked monkeys seated around him and Don the Con have to say about. But, more importantly, it is time to start calling this all out for what it is to our fellow whites—RACISM plain and simple.
Comments are closed on this story.