To Those Offended by the Taking of a Knee

American-flag-America 

I listen with interest and anger to the people who say, athletes – African American and those in solidarity with them – “taking a knee” are disrespecting the flag and, therefore, this country, even as those same people say little to nothing about the administration hob-knobbing with dictators and enemies of this country.

Do they not know the history of oppression and discrimination against black people in this country in general, and about discrimination practiced against them by the military in particular?

African Americans have fought in every war of this country, eager to support the country which did not support them, but in spite of that, this country treated them like second class citizens, while they fought in the wars and when they got back home.

While this country waged war against fascism abroad, making it possible for citizens of other countries to have equal rights under the rubric of democracy, blacks did not have and could not expect that they would be given those same rights in this country.

The Smithsonian Art Museum published a report in which they noted, “The discriminatory practices in the military regarding black involvement” made it clear that blacks were not values. The report said that “prior to 1940, thirty thousand blacks had tried to enlist in the army but were turned away. In the U.S. Navy, blacks were restricted to roles as messmen; …they were excluded entirely from the Air Corps and the Marines.”

In Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Executive Order 8802, also known as the Fair Employment Act, racial discrimination was banned. The order said, “It is the policy of the United States to encourage full participation in the national defense program by all citizens of the United States, regardless of race, creed, color or national origin,” but in spite of that, racial discrimination was practiced.

With the contradiction of people fighting for the freedom of others while they themselves were denied the same, FDR realized that the world would look upon the US as hypocrites, thus leading him to sign Executive Order 8802. This he did in spite of the protests of the Secretary of War, Harry Woodring, who said that “the enlistment of Negroes …would demoralize the weaken the effectiveness of units by mixing colored and white soldiers in closely related units…”

It is well documented that African Americans returning from war were treated horribly once they returned home; many whites apparently resented blacks in uniform and worked hard to remind them that in America, they were to remember their “place.” There is the well-known story of how African American soldiers were made to stand on a train while German prisoners of war were allowed to sit at tables in the train’s restaurant. Violence against returning soldiers was common. Who can forget the tragic story of Isaac Woodard, who dared ask a bus to stop so he could go to the bathroom and was later attacked by thugs and law enforcement officers who pounded his eyes with their nightsticks until he passed out; his beating left him blind.  And yes, he was wearing his uniform when this atrocity occurred.

Those who balk at the athletes taking a knee, respecting the flag but protesting how, in spite of the freedom that flag represents, forget – or perhaps they never knew – that prior to World War II, 2.5 million African Americans were enrolled in some branch of the military, and 1 million of them served. (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/what-was-black-americas-double-war/)

For the Vietnam War, at a time when blacks made up about 11 percent of the total American population, they were 12.5 percent of the soldiers on the field. (http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/s_z/stevens/africanamer.htm)

Regardless of how hard African Americans fought for this American democracy, full human and civil rights were denied them once they returned. They could not get the loans for housing and education that white soldiers got, nor many of the other benefits. The discrimination that is being protested now is police brutality meted against so many African American males. It is not right in general; it is even more troubling as it becomes clear that the forebears of these young people were soldiers in the military, fighting for a country which has not ever respected them.

One has to wonder what white people would do and say had this been their narrative? Would they continue fighting for a country which treated them so poorly? The miracle of African American citizenship is that blacks have always fought for this country, in spite of the racial discrimination. To hear white people say that kneeling before a flag to protest police brutality is maddening, even more so when those same white people say that black people should be “grateful” for the treatment they/we have received in this country.

In the present political atmosphere, it is even more troubling to hear the criticism against those who kneel when the national anthem is played even as the president is acting against the interests of this country as he works to become “friends” with our enemies, completely ignoring the now well-established truth that Russia interfered in our election.

Who is the greater or lesser patriot, the African Americans who kneel respectfully as the national anthem is played, exercising their First Amendment rights, something their forebears fought to protect, or the president, who would shut them down even as his policies put America and its democracy in jeopardy?

When will the masses of white Americans wake up and own America’s sordid history when it comes to race? African Americans are not obliged to respect their oppressors or take their discrimination lying down. I am sure not many white people, who really do understand the need for human beings to receive justice, would have been much more vocal in expressing their anger over the violation of their rights. It is what we do in America. It is what humans should do when justice is denied them.

A candid observation …

Shut Up and Dribble

American-flag-America

The accusation from the president of this nation that the black athletes who have chosen to kneel to protest racism marks a disrespect for the flag is as ludicrous and ignorant as it is wrong, and the decision of the NFL to acquiesce to the spirit of the president and make it a requirement that all players on the field must stand reveals the master/slave relationship which has always been the case between white and black people.

The players are being treated as property – the property of the owners – with no rights, and the owners, like overseers, have only one thing in mind: to become more rich off of the labor of black bodies and enrich not only themselves but the NFL. The president’s suggestion that those who kneel should not play sports and should perhaps leave the country revealed as well not only his racism but the racism that is in the core of this country

He apparently does not know and/or does not care that it was black people who built this country and who are responsible for the establishment of this nation’s economy as the wealthiest in the world. He also does not know, apparently, that black people have fought in every war in which this country has been engaged, but have been treated as second-class citizens once they returned home.

It is not the flag they are protesting. It is the putrid, rancid system of white supremacy which has robbed them and black people in general of their rights as American citizens.

Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative has been quoted as saying that slavery never ended; it just evolved. Black people – both men and women- willingly and eagerly fought in America’s wars, believing with every fiber of their being in the principles this country espoused but which were, for the most part, denied to them. They sacrificed as much as did their white soldier counterparts, but instead of being honored once they got home, were again relegated to the metaphorical back of the bus, back to “their place.”

The sacrifices they made have meant nothing to the white supremacist power structure.

Their post-service treatment is difficult to swallow, but what is even more problematic is that too many people – white and black – do not know the humiliation black service people suffered when they returned to the United States. Dr. Adam Robinson, who served as the 36thSurgeon General of the United States, wrote recently about the plight of an African American soldier who, returning from a tour of duty, died of a broken neck in a Tulsa jail after being tortured for 51 hours, begging for food and water. He had been arrested in a motel as he suffered a mental breakdown. He needed medical care, not to be arrested.

Adams also recalls that Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers “survived the Battle of Normandy but died in a 1963 Civil Rights battle, killed by a Klansman.” (http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-op-0115-black-veterans-20180111-story.html)

The stories of the horrific treatment black soldiers received after serving this country in war are legion. White people resented them and were frightened that, upon returning home, they would upset the “way of life” put in place by white supremacy. They needed for these heroic black soldier, who fought for this country and its flag, to understand their place. Many were beaten and/or lynched or killed while still in uniform. The perks afforded white soldiers, including low-interest mortgages and loans to start businesses were denied them. Banks would not lend to them.

And still, when the next war came, black people enlisted.

It is disingenuous for the president and in fact anyone to suggest that kneeling in protest of white supremacy is evidence of a lack of patriotism. To the contrary, protest against injustice is how this country came to be. It is cruel and flat-out racist for those same people to suggest that those who protest might need to “leave the country.” The white supremacist system still wants black people to remain “in their place;” in the words of Laura Ingraham, many white Americans want African Americans to “shut up and dribble,” and forget how this country has treated and continues to treat them. (https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/02/19/587097707/laura-ingraham-told-lebron-james-to-shutup-and-dribble-he-went-to-the-hoop)

There are not enough words to express the outrage that comes with being continually being insulted and put down by racists who will deny to their dying day that they are in fact that they are just that. But the prayer is that in these times, when the president is pushing racist rhetoric and ideas, that African Americans will continue to stand up for the rights and dignity that this sick system of white supremacy has never been able to offer to a group of people who have fought to the death for a country that does not respect them.

The accusation from the president of this nation that the black athletes who have chosen to kneel to protest racism marks a disrespect for the flag is as ludicrous and ignorant as it is wrong, and the decision of the NFL to acquiesce to the spirit of the president and make it a requirement that all players on the field must stand reveals the master/slave relationship which has always been the case between white and black people.

The players are being treated as property – the property of the owners – with no rights, and the owners, like overseers, have only one thing in mind: to become richer off of the labor of black bodies and enrich not only themselves but the NFL. The president’s suggestion that those who kneel should not play sports and should perhaps leave the country revealed as well not only his racism but the racism that is in the core of this country.

He apparently does not know and/or does not care that it was black people who built this country and who are responsible for the establishment of this nation’s economy as the wealthiest in the world. He also does not know, apparently, that black people have fought in every war in which this country has been engaged, but have been treated as second-class citizens once they returned home.

It is not the flag they are protesting. It is the putrid, rancid system of white supremacy which has robbed them and black people in general of their rights as American citizens.

Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative has been quoted as saying that slavery never ended; it just evolved. Black people – both men and women- willingly and eagerly fought in America’s wars, believing with every fiber of their being in the principles this country espoused but which were, for the most part, denied to them. They sacrificed as much as did their white soldier counterparts, but instead of being honored once they got home, were again relegated to the metaphorical back of the bus, back to “their place.”

The sacrifices they made have meant nothing to the white supremacist power structure.

Their post-service treatment is difficult to swallow, but what is even more problematic is that too many people – white and black – do not know the humiliation black service people suffered when they returned to the United States. Dr. Adam Robinson, who served as the 36thSurgeon General of the United States, wrote recently about the plight of an African American soldier who, returning from a tour of duty, died of a broken neck in a Tulsa jail after being tortured for 51 hours, begging for food and water. He had been arrested in a motel as he suffered a mental breakdown. He needed medical care, not to be arrested.

Adams also recalls that Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers “survived the Battle of Normandy but died in a 1963 Civil Rights battle, killed by a Klansman.” (http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-op-0115-black-veterans-20180111-story.html)

The stories of the horrific treatment black soldiers received after serving this country in war are legion. White people resented them and were frightened that, upon returning home, they would upset the “way of life” put in place by white supremacy. They needed for these heroic black soldier, who fought for this country and its flag, to understand their place. Many were beaten and/or lynched or killed while still in uniform. The perks afforded white soldiers, including low-interest mortgages and loans to start businesses were denied them. Banks would not lend to them.

And still, when the next war came, black people enlisted.

It is disingenuous for the president and in fact anyone to suggest that kneeling in protest of white supremacy is evidence of a lack of patriotism. To the contrary, protest against injustice is how this country came to be. It is cruel and flat-out racist for those same people to suggest that those who protest might need to “leave the country.” The white supremacist system still wants black people to remain “in their place;” in the words of Laura Ingraham, many white Americans want African Americans to “shut up and dribble,” and forget how this country has treated and continues to treat them. (https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/02/19/587097707/laura-ingraham-told-lebron-james-to-shutup-and-dribble-he-went-to-the-hoop)

There are not enough words to express the outrage that comes with being continually being insulted and put down by racists who will deny to their dying day that they are in fact that they are just that. But the prayer is that in these times, when the president is pushing racist rhetoric and ideas, that African Americans will continue to stand up for the rights and dignity that this sick system of white supremacy has never been able to offer to a group of people who have fought to the death for a country that does not respect them.