Where September 11th Meets My Patriotism and My Blackness
The second I make a post in support of Colin Kaepernick, who many including myself consider to be a living American hero, a tiny, nagging feeling of anxiety sets in as I wonder how many of my closest friends, who just so happen to be military, are going to unfollow me from social media; and the feeling that comes with that, sucks.
I would love to assert that I didn’t care at all. But such a statement would be untrue. I care greatly. After all, isn’t it arguable that any “friend” who maintains zero regard in how you feel about a given thing might have never really been a friend to begin with? Because any friend worth their salt cares hen you feel disrespected, mistreated or overlooked.
And this is the very reason that I’m such a huge supporter of Colin Kaepernick and as of late, all things Nike.
More from ESSENCE
After Nike, made the decision to run an ad showcasing Kaepernick as the face of its 30th anniversary campaign, the internet caught fire with video footage of (mainly) white Americans burning their Nike merchandise. All I could think of was how little things have actually changed in the United Sates since the days of burning crosses on the lawns of its Black citizens.
For a few years now, I’ve had to watch the real story behind athletes like Eric Reid and countless others choosing to kneel during the national anthem become more and more distorted behind a falsehood created by so many to be anti-American.
But, for one, the same way I care about the lives of my military friends and family, I also expect them to care that my Black baby brother not be gunned down in the middle of the street while he walks back to his college apartment for simply carrying a cell phone. Furthermore, I am tired of having to choose between my blackness and my patriotism. This is my country too. The very country built on the backs of my ancestors’ free labor whose bodies were once considered literal currency and by law, less than human.
Particularly on days like today as we remember and honor those who lost their lives during 9/11, I’d like to point out that the lives of Black military and first responders were lost as well; and all that I have ever asked of this nation is that their lives were honored just the same on the days when they were not wearing a badge.
What a tragedy that so many people of color must constantly pick a side between their allegiance to who they are ethnically and where they were born geographically.
The fact of the matter is this: there is a part of this nation’s make up that has never fully accepted being black or being an immigrant as being truly American. If it had, then black people peacefully protesting would not always be deemed unpatriotic. And one thing is certain, from the days of Selma to now, any form of protest, peaceful or otherwise, has always been looked at as “inappropriate”. I’d even argue to say that the ultimatum given by the GOP has always been that both blacks and immigrants to this great nation “should just be grateful to be here or get out” and essentially shut up about anything and everything else.
But fortunately, the GOP doesn’t hold the monopoly on patriotism. I can quite easily respect my military and their commitment to service while I refuse to lower the value of my own black life to prove that I do so. I come from a generation of excellent multi-taskers, so luckily I can do both.
Malcolm X once said, “You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong no matter who says it.” And as a friend pointed out to me, that if engaging in civil disobedience is going to make America a greater, more inclusive country, well, who can think of anything more patriotic than that?