Unequal under the flag of the free



Chicago Bears fans make their views of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick known during the playing of the national anthem before a pre-season game against the Cleveland Browns on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland. (Phil Masturzo/Akron Beacon Journal/TNS)

Woe to the African-American who displays insufficient patriotism. Those who suffer the most from coast to coast are expected to show reverence. When we don’t, many white Americans — and it is mostly white Americans — proceed to lose their minds.

I have tried to understand the outrage of those who become so hateful when blacks protest the symbols of America. I have concluded that deep down they must know the protest is not about the symbols, but about them.

Yes, it’s about the people. It’s always about the people — in this case, those who don’t make the symbols real. Those who get angry at the person who protests the injustice instead of those who create, perpetrate and perpetuate the injustice.


Oh say can you see?

I learned the national anthem at an early age, along with the “Pledge of Allegiance,” “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” and “America the Beautiful.” I learned them all in elementary school with a class full of mostly dark faces like mine.

By the dawn’s early light.

And in the dawn of my youth, I believed in my heart all those words about liberty and justice for all, though there were rumblings even then that the words were not quite the same in real life for those known in polite terms as Negroes and colored.

What so proudly we hail.

I was proud to be an American. Yet, I was unclear about the freedom my parents talked about. Weren’t we already free? Why do we have to march for it?

At the twilight’s last gleaming.


Another light gleamed in that shined on color and complexion. There were shades of freedom. The smallest sliver of the American pie went to us. Shut up. Be thankful. Eat it.

Bombs bursting in air.

And black homes and churches were bombed. How could that be? And they killed children too?

Gave proof through the night.

Through word-of-mouth, newspapers and television — the latter showed the fire hoses, the police dogs, the policemen, the mobs, the funerals, the disregard of the lives of those of various shades of black.

That our flag was still there.

And still we stood — I stood — for the anthem and for the flag and the republic for which it stands, despite the distance between the symbols and reality.

O’er the land of the free!

How could this be? These words were in the anthem when the nation held slaves. How does one reconcile this dichotomy, this hypocrisy so deeply engraved in our national songs and symbols?

And so as San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sits or kneels when our national anthem is played, I must acknowledge — not confess because to confess suggests one has done something wrong — I must acknowledge there was a time when I too did not stand for the national anthem or the flag.

It was in high school and early college. When I attended games or events when the anthem played, I sat. Chalk it up to reading too much about America’s history and seeing too much of contemporary history at that time to find it acceptable to stand for something that did not stand for me.

Yes, in America we have more liberty and opportunity than in any other country. But the liberty and opportunity come in shades that are not equal, and justice is not blind.

And the home of the brave.

How brave is it that rarely does a police officer call out other officers who do wrong?

I suspect that Kaepernick, as others, has seen too many injustices captured on social media. It either numbs you or disturbs you to the point of doing something about it.

Through his protest, he has demonstrated a greater understanding of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution than those who wish to put him in his place.

My only suggestion to Kaepernick and others who may join him in this protest is that if you are not going to stand for the anthem, please don’t kneel.


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