Respect the Troops: Stop Whitewashing Our US Military Veterans

I’ve read numerous posts or comments over the last few days that say. Not all quite as strongly but something similar to this one … “Nike spit in the face of every active duty military personnel, retired or disabled vet. Also on every grave marker in every Military Cemetery all over the world.”

You may have missed this in history class, but did you know that Black Americans have served in every American War?

History records the first American to die in the Revolutionary War was Crispus Attucks. He was part Black part Native which means he had absolutely nothing to gain in this war. Yet he is regarded by historians to be the first American ever to die for this country.

Black Americans who fought in the Civil War saw the end of slavery, only for white supremacy to live on and adapt consequently rendering the 14th and 15th Amendments ineffective.

Black Americans who fought in WWI returned home to a separate but not equal society based on skin color, and the threat of lynching if they forgot their place.
Many of the Black Americans who fought in WWII stayed in Europe and took up residence because of the overt racism and often violent resistance to the growing Civil Rights Movement that was happening back home. They had it better in places like France than they did in the US.

Many of the Black Americans who fought in the Civil War and both World Wars were became targets of racial violence, because of their service to the nations military and how their service was a threat to white supremacist ideology.

Black Americans who fought in the Korean War returned home to be discriminated against in their access to the GI Bill. They watched their white brothers be given a chance to start a life via the GI Bill, while they were denied because of the color of their skin. And even if they were approved for access to the GI Bill their options of where they could buy a home, go to school, start a business were severely limited due to continued resistance to social integration and equality.

Black Americans who fought in the Vietnam War returned home to a virutal war on black neighborhoods via the War on Crime and War on Drugs.

Today many Black Americans whose military duties took them to Iraq and Afghanistan return home to fear for the lives of their children in encounters with police, and to listen to people like you talk as if their service doesn’t even exist and never happened. They continue to serve this country in the midst of a resurgence of White Nationalism. They serve this country and make sacrifices for the freedoms of US citizens including those who look at them, not as a veteran deserving of gratitude and honor, but just another N****r. They protected the freedoms of the white men who marched through Charlottesville last year with tiki torches proclaiming, “You will not replace us”.

You don’t have to think much of Colin Kaepernick or any of the NFL players who kneel in protest of the persistence of racism in US policing and the criminal justice system.

You can be so upset with Nike for making him the face of their new ad campaign and never buy another pair of their shoes again.

But please… stop talking as though no one who ever fought, served and sacrificed in our nation’s military was black. Their contributions to our nation is not Black History. It’s American history. A history that is often forgotten, ignored, or over looked.

Black Americans defended and continue to defend the very institutions and people that treat them not as veterans deserving respect and honor, but rather as a menace to society deserving of suspicion for doing average everyday things while black.

What Does the Flag Symbolize?: Thoughts on the NFL National Anthem Controversy and Policy

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting leave and getting away with murder.”

That is the explanation that Colin Kapernick gave to reporters after the third preseason game for the San Francisco 49ers in late August 2016. Fast forward twenty one months later after two full NFL seasons embroiled in a national anthem controversy, the owners have unanimously approved a NFL National Anthem Policy. I’ve read the statement that was given in accordance with the introduction of this new policy. I do appreciate that they acknowledged how unfortunate it was that “on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousand of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not and was never the case.” That being said that false perception was held and often driven by a number of NFL owners themselves.

At the end of the day the NFL owners ultimately care about the bottom line. I do not believe they really get it, and honestly I’m not convinced they really care. After the mid season closed door meetings with some of the players who had become the leaders of this movement within the NFL they concluded that they would support the foundations and charities the players were involved in within their respective communities. That solution falls short of actually addressing the actual concerns of the wider movement the players are lending their voices to within the United States of America as a whole demanding better policing in communities of color and accountability for officers who are wrongfully kill unarmed citizens. They do not care about there being a universal standard of policing and police protocol. They do not care about police officers whose recklessness and clear disregard for their training in deescalation tactics lead to unnecessary and unjust deaths. These are issues that can’t be resolved by getting behind the local Boys & Girls Club.

But ultimately this isn’t simply about the NFL not getting it or not caring. It’s about a large swath of America not getting it, or simply not caring. They do not care about the inequitable policing of black and brown bodies that can get Tamir Rice shot and killed in two seconds flat, but still armed white mass shooters can be taken into custody without incident hours after they’ve gone on a shooting rampage. They have been drip fed the lie of black inferiority, of inherent black savagery all their lives. These lies date back to the foundations of this country when Columbus discovered a resource far more valuable than the gold he was in search of. He found brown bodies, and with the authority bestowed on him by the crown and the church he sought to own them and make them work for him. If they did not comply they were killed. Thus as far as they are concerned the high profile incidences involving people of color who have been killed by police officers in recent years are just another black or brown body in a heap of millions that has been collecting for five hundred years that should have just done what their master told them to do.

It is not NFL owners who sat on the juries or grand juries who either choose to acquit or not indict Officer Yanez, Officer Wilson, Officer Pantaleo, George Zimmerman, or Officer Loehmann. It was our fellow citizens many of whom are likely NFL Fans, play fantasy football, or have a favorite local team. They are Vikings fans. They were Rams fans. They are Giants or Jets fans. They are Browns fans. Jurors decided and much of America approved.

Lost in all the anthem controversy of the past two years is the actual symbolic meaning of the stars and stripes. The American flag itself has been distorted to mean something else, something that was not originally intended. America has either forgotten or simply does not want to be beholden to the great ideals that America aspires to be and thus what the flag represents. When the colonists first marched into the battles of the Revolutionary War with the flag it was not in honor of the troops who were fighting against the crown of Great Britain whom they believed was a tyrant. They carried the flag to remind them what they were fighting for. The ideal they aspired towards as expressed in The Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It represents what we aspire to be but have never fully been. The pageantry that was developed around supporting troops during war time dating back the World War II has caused us to forget what the flag was meant to signify. It was quite a convenient revision for a nation that fought a war against fascism whilst rounding up Asian Americans into internment camps and sending black men who were legally discriminated against at home across the ocean to fight for the freedom of white foreigners

Truth be told America has had a very slow and contentious march towards fulfilling that ideal for all of it’s history into the present day. By 1776 it had been nearly 130 years since the courts in Virginia ruled that John Punch “being a negro… shall serve his said master or his assigns for the time of his natural life here or elsewhere”. That of course after the Dutchman and the Scotsman who had fled with John Punch got four additional years added to their servitude. In the sixty years after the Joe Punch Decision Virginia codified a series of court decisions that created a radicalized system of slavery with the Virginia Slave Codes of 1705. It effectively embedded white supremacy into law, and the other colonies quickly followed suit. Thus the Declaration of Independence was conceived under the clear auspices of white supremacy. White Supremacy in America has never fully been addressed and dismantled. Thus today we have glaring issues of racial inequality not least of which is the criminal justice system.

If there was ever a time for NFL owners to see the urgency and seriousness of what the players were kneeling for it was during the first weekend of preseason games in early August 2017. Out spoken white supremacists marched through Charlottesville Virginia and protested the removal of statues depicting rebels and traitors of America. Statues of men who believed it was their divine right to rule over men and women of color. Not on their knees, but with torches. Not with silence but with shouts that they will not be replaced. Not in their uniforms of white hoods masking their faces, but in their street clothes and their pale faces in the open. Not with a posture of submission but with gestures of assault and violent confrontation armed with anything that could be used as a weapon.Yet in the midst of weekly news stories of black people having the police called on them for doing everyday ordinary things, and bigots no longer holding their tongue, they’ve made it clear what matters most.. their bottom line of corporate sponsors and white fans who just want their football without the distractions and for the players to simply comply and give them a good game.