Colin, the Flag, and the Third Stanza

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave

In the summer of 2015, I was with my two children driving on the Interstate 287 towards Connecticut. We were going to see a friend, who lived in the country side of Connecticut. We had planned on my children being able to pet and feed farm animals who lived in their natural settings.  

I was speeding on the I287. I had not known I was speeding, because the roads were clear and smooth, the traffic was light, and the other cars around me were driving as fast, if not faster. A police officer drove behind with his lights flashing. I pulled over to the shoulder of the highway.

The summer of 2015 was also the summer Sandra Bland was stopped by police officers, arrested, then died later in custody. My stop was a couple of weeks after her death.

When I parked on the shoulder of the highway, my knees began shaking. I saw my hands shake as I placed them on the wheel. I looked at my side view mirror, watching the police officer approach my car with his hand on his gun, and thought about my children in the car, wondering how they would be handled if I were taken away at that moment. My children asked why we stopped; I simply told them to remain silent as I spoke to the police officer. 

The paranoia described above is what people who are not of color do not experience. To not experience that paranoia--shaking of knees and hands, wetness under the arms, and the heart beating faster because of a legitimate traffic stop--is what white people have the privilege of not experiencing.

Do not tell me that Kaepernick has been disrespectful to the flag and the national anthem. That flag and that anthem were never for people like me.

The Nike Ad                                                                                                                                                  

The Colin Kaepernick Nike Commercial makes me wipe a tear each time I watch it. Supposedly, Nike's shares dropped as a result of the ad. Many people publicly burned their Nike clothing and sneakers as a result of the ad.

People, Nike is about making money. Do you honestly think that they did not at all anticipate the reaction of the public as a result of the ad? Do you honestly believe that they did not plan for what would happen? Do you honestly believe, that a corporation, whose goal is to make money, would not have signed Kaepernick unless they knew for sure that it would, ultimately, be profitable for them?

Do you really believe, that a universally known corporation, would not have a well-paid specialized team in its company, hired specifically for predicating societal reactions to an ad that some would deem controversial? With set plans on continuing to profit, regardless of the controversy afterwards?

Do you think Nike is going to be hurt by your burnt sneakers? Do you think they care? I think they care...enough to laugh at you as they walk to the bank.

The Anthem: A Military Song                                                                                                      

Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner after a battle of the War of 1812. After 25 hours of bombing Baltimore, Maryland, Key waited for the smoke to clear on the land and saw the American Flag, thus the inspiration for the poem. At the start of the War of 1812, many slaves--includes slaves Key owned--escaped to join the British army with the promise of freedom. The infamous third stanza, that begins this post, reveals the feelings that Key had about his slaves choosing to fight for the British. He was, as you can see, hoping "their blood" would wash out the "foul footsteps' pollution" of fighting on the side of the British.

Now let's analyze the verse we all song: 

  • "the rockets' red glare"
  • "the bombs bursting in air"

The lines above show the acquiring of victory through war, in an obviously non-peaceful way. 

Choosing to fight for a country that would give you your freedom seems like a no-brainer to me. However, many slave owners felt the people who chose freedom and humanity over slavery were traitors to "their" country.

African Americans had no citizenship in the country that called them traitors, because they were human chattel. Still, Francis Scott Key was, obviously, not content that his property left him to fight for their freedom. 

Colin's Kneeling Disrespectful to the Troops and Police Officers?                                                    

No. Just no. 

His kneeling is about police brutality towards people of color. His kneeling is ABOUT POLICE BRUTALITY towards people of color.

The kneeling is about police brutality towards people of color. 

Need I say it again? Yes.

The kneeling is about police brutality towards people of color. 

It is our constitutional right to peacefully protest. I am not sure how much more peaceful one can be, by placing yourself in a physically vulnerable position, jeopardizing your career, jeopardizing your life, but still, just being on one knee for the sake of initiating a change. The kneeling is not about police officers. The kneeling is not about our troops. The kneeling is about police brutality against people of color, which, in itself is an entirely separate entity from our American troops and police officers. 

If we were no longer allowed to peacefully protest, we would be living in a dictatorship. 

Why don't you just leave the country, then, Mercy?                                                                       

Fuck no. Where am I going to go? My ancestors built this country. My ancestors made this country the richest in the world. My ancestors laid down the framework for all of what we see as part of our American culture. To leave my country is to disrespect what my ancestors suffered through to build this country. I am staying right where I am. 

I love the ideals this country was built on. We must remember, though that our Founding Fathers did own slaves when they were talking about all men being created equal. I want to believe, though, that they knew slavery was a true injustice to humanity because of the language of the documents that set the foundation of our country. Our American documents were written in a way that would leave an openness to interpretation as time progressed. I want to believe, that they knew at some point, Black people were going to rise up and fight for their freedom and for their right to be equally covered under the American Flag.

Or, even just kneel in protest, on the side of a football field. 

I will stay in this country, to continue to fight for being under the umbrella of the rights our Founding Fathers established on paper for all Americans. 

The Result of the I287 Stop                                                                                                              

The police officer saw how nervous I was. He commented on my not looking at him while answering his questions. I told him, almost crying, "Officer, I am scared." He told me he understood, and reassured me that there was nothing to be scared about. He chatted with my children for a few minutes. He let me go with a warning. He was a white man.

My police stop further explains the difference between clumping all police officers into one category and protesting against police brutality. Police brutality is what Kaepernick is protesting. He is protesting against the idea that people of color who are stopped do not deserve the respectful process that is naturally given to white people. Yet, as a black woman, having seen the video of Sandra Bland telling officers that she wanted to live, I will always live in fear.

Colin Kaepernick did not throw bombs and rockets to acquire victory. He kneeled. And I tilt my hat to him for peacefully and courageosly protesting in a space where he knew his peaceful protest would be seen worldwide. 

 

 

Mercy Tullis-Bukhari