BY JOURNEY MARTIN '21
What does it mean to be American? As a black American woman, this is something I constantly ask myself. We celebrate our independence on July 4, when the 13 colonies claimed independence in 1776 from England. We celebrate by dressing up in our national flag’s colors and watching fireworks at the end of the night. However, how does this day represent independence for black Americans when we were still enslaved during this time?
We celebrate Thanksgiving as the beginning of our history in America. Of white settlers coming to America and breaking bread with the Indigenous people the beginning of our history in America. In my kindergarten class, we’d play the characters of pilgrims and Native Americans coming together and enjoying a feast. What does Thanksgiving represent to Native Americans when, on this day, lands were stolen, people were murdered and identities were erased? American history does not encompass all Americans.
This is why I’m filled with anger when someone questions our football players’ decision to take a knee. President Trump tweeted, during the national anthem, “The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!” on Sept. 25. The issue of taking a knee has everything to do with race.
Last year, Colin Kaepernick made headlines for his decision to kneel during the national anthem as a response to the string of unjust black killings at the hands of police officers. Why stand for a song that is meant to embody your freedom and rights, when they are not upheld in your society?
Black Americans are dying and people are angry with us for not standing for a song. We’re “disrespectful” when we exercise our right to peacefully protest; yet it is okay for them to ignore the murder of black Americans.
When Trump and others agree that not standing for the flag is disrespectful, it calls into question their morals, values and priorities. When black Americans speak out against this, however, we’re labeled “disrespectful” or “angry.” This is why such protests are essential and important.
It is important to highlight that protesting is a right. The American government is established upon the basic principles of civics. John Locke’s three natural rights are “life, liberty and property.” The purpose of government is to protect the rights of the people living in a society. We, as Americans, essentially sign a contract.
Trump and others make it seem as though this contract is being violated by not standing for the flag. Yet what many fail to realize is that if the government does not protect these natural rights and the laws we have passed, “the people have the right to resist the government.”
Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Michael Brown Jr., Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Tanisha Anderson, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray and more were murdered as a product of racism in America.
These black killings do not represent a protection of the natural rights of life. It’s important to resist, take a knee and think about what it means to be an American.