Recently I heard an interview with Dr. Ben Carson, the brilliant former pediatric neurosurgeon and current Secretary of the Housing and Urban Development Agency (HUD) about why African American ballplayers were met with such vitriol for having the audacity to protest police brutality during the national anthem. He repeated a well-worn racist troupe that the protests dishonored the flag and disrespected the troops. His remedy: that before future protests, Black athletes need to reassure a doubting public of their patriotism- to pledge allegiance before the pledge of allegiance. This narrative recalls a crucial question: what more do African Americans have to do to prove their patriotism to a country that has enslaved, denigrated, and subjugated them?
I offer this as a rebuttal.
We did not come here in search of the “American Dream.” We were brought in chains for the sole purpose of having the humanity stripped from us and to build the economy for those in power. So, when slavery was abolished, the physical chains were removed but the metaphorical chains have only evolved to keep us in bondage. Black people historically have been subjugated to the damaging practices that made social and economic mobility impossible. These systems, like utilizing the criminal justice system to disproportionately subject black people to unjust practices, were quickly established to effectively reinslave the Black American yet again, and that is only the tip of the iceberg.
Yet, despite our trauma, we continued to fight for this country in every conflict starting with the Revolutionary War to our recent wars overseas. We have also run and successfully achieved political office to serve as representatives of local, state and federal governments, and even president of the United States. Yet, every step of the way, we have been thwarted, from slavery, to Jim Crow, to the current mass incarceration. Even as African Americans achieve great success, oppression escalates. It is as if we were not meant to gain the upper hand or the proper footing to be self-actualized.
So, to Dr. Carson, I say, “We have done enough! America should know how we feel about her.” To question the patriotism of those whose ancestors have built the United States from the ground up is beyond ludicrous. This is our home. Our critiques should not be invalidated because they do not fit in with the “civil-tounged” and “politically correct” form of action that those in opposition request from us. Those are tactics of stalling and deflection. We protest because we are unheard and have been unheard. We will continue on in our efforts so that one day those that oppress might actually take a listen.