They call themselves "American" and we don't bat an eye. Sometimes we even cheer. There's no outward or subconscious rejection of the label. You're probably reading this and wondering where's this going? Think about it. American. Just American. Everyone else gets a hyphenated name but not them. African, Asian, on and on.. even the original known inhabitants are hyphenated; Native-American! Colonizers found them here, stole their land, decimated their people and claimed the American moniker for themselves while relegating the original inhabitants as "Native." Begs the question; Does "American" mean white?
We've been conditioned to think that the hyphen is a way to identify each other by race or heritage. Its not. It's another way to claim ownership over something that doesn't belong to them and to tell others you don't belong.
This conditioning has become clear to me during the recent p BLACK LIVES MATTER protests and the counter protests claiming all lives matter. I saw a video where dialog broke down and the "all lives" crowd, decorated with the American, flag began to chant U.S.A! U.S.A! It was weird. They couldn't agree that black lives were included in all lives, they wouldn't repeat the phrase BLACK LIVES MATTER. Instead, they countered "all lives matter" and that declaration eventually devolved into "U.S.A!"
It's anti-blackness. Plain and simple. For every valid point relevant to black issues, there is a counter point created to gaslight us and their followers into thinking our issues do not exist. The way they coopted "U.S.A!," patriotism, and "American," we should snatch their soapboxes. The civil right movement adopted this principle in the south, where the confederate flag flew high, civil rights leaders carried the American flag. It was a symbol of the movement! Today, we see people draped in it chanting U.S.A! To drown out reason and general good sense. Makes me laugh to think how they would react if we took over "all lives matter." What would their counter be?
That's a rhetorical question. I don't care. The whole point of decolonization is to get them out of our heads and focus on us.
That's why I combined an interpretation of the American flag and APOLOGETICALLY BLACK on the African-American. My way of saying neither this country nor this flag is yours to withhold from others. We may not appreciate its origin but we aren't going to let anyone wrongfully claim entitlement. We've had enough of that. We've experienced and witnessed too much to allow them to resocialize "whites only."
I want to see the look on their faces when they see the image of the flag/country exhibited on this shirt. I hope they swell up with pride before their minds connect the words. I want to short circuit some synapses. UNAPOLOGETICLLY BLACK combined with America?! They've weaponized every semblance of rule against us. We're expected to hate the way they do. After all this time and all the wickedness directed at the black community we persist. We're that stubborn flame you can't extinguish. Truthfully, we want to left alone. This shirt is really a reminder to us; our people that we belong. Let that light in you burn black people. People don't change because they see the light, they change when they feel the heat. It's our jobs as Griots, as torch bearers, as truth tellers, to ensure OURstory is perpetuated everywhere we stand.
Being black doesn't mean anti-American. However, for those of us on this decolonization journey, being black has become to mean anti-institutionalized racism, pro-equity, pro-justice just to name a few. African; unapologetic in our blackness, unapologetic in our love of self, 0URstory, our potential, our God. American; despite the attempts to deny us rights, dehumanize us and revise our history; American in spite of the hate towards us.
The racists can chant U.S.A all they want, this image won't run; its here to stay just like we are...and by the way we still carry Africa with us wherever we go. ọṣọ aṣa.
People are writing well thought out, well researched pieces about how far we’ve come as a people, as a society, as a country since July 4th 1776. This isn’t that. I’m disappointed, despondent, angry and fatigued to say the least. It’s all due to everything that I see today, the more I learn of this country’s history. The duplicitousness, the hypocrisy the arrogance on full display is sickening.
America, what if the country you celebrated doesn’t exist? What if the very things you praise about the country means the exact opposite to roughly 20% of the population. The freedom you claim means the incarceration to others, the wealth you squander means lack and insufficiency for others, your celebration means their torment. Would you be interested in changing those things that causes the difference in experience? What if it meant your ways; including the celebration of everything that’s wrong with America? Starting with its heroes. Let’s take Jefferson as an example. He owned Africans, commissioned studies to perpetuate the lie that they were less than human yet had no qualms about fathering children with Sallie Hemmings. By today’s standards, a grown man that grooms a teenager to cater to their sexual depravity, would be labeled a pedophile. Oh wait, we should ask Cyntonia Brown if that rings true for her. After being forced into sexual slavery she mustered the courage to successfully and fatally defend herself against her oppressor and served 15 years in jail because of it. Or ask Chrystul Kizer that was faced with the same dilemma, rescued herself at the detriment of her oppressor and now faces criminal prosecution. Ms. Hemmings had no choice but Jefferson did, because he was free. See how he exercised his freedom? American hero.
They tell us we’re free today and all you have to do is open a newspaper, watch the news, browse social media to challenge that narrative. We fought for freedom; we were granted a modicum of it. We fought to be treated civilly, we were granted some courtesies. None of it is enough. None of it created equity. We’ve built and rebuilt something out of nothing over and over and over. Every time we do, our white neighbors and friends either stand by and watch or participate in the destruction of our accomplishments. Black Wall Street, Rosewood, Wilmington NC (google Daily Record fire) the list goes on and on. We’re that proverbial crooked rose that Tupac spoke about. We keep blooming under the most adverse conditions. We do just fine, given the opportunity. Therein lies the problem; “given the opportunity.” Which brings me back to “independence;” so no, by appropriate standards, we ain’t free. They had to and still do write laws to make sure we were treated with a measure of dignity. Just last year, 2019, Senator Jamaal Bailey and Assemblywoman Tremaine Wright co-authored a bill to ban racial discrimination based on hair; you know, the thing that grows out of our head naturally. A bill had to be passed to prevent it from happening because it’s still a thing. But we’re free though.
I have and will celebrate Juneteenth. The 4th is and will be just the 4th. When America doles out reparations for descendants of slaves the way they did land grants for white people; when the American government starts investing in communities of color the way they executed redlining and mortgage discrimination; when black bodies aren’t dropping in the streets at the hand of people that are hired and sworn to protect and serve; when all legal standards align with equity and fairness, I will celebrate the 4th.
Please keep in mind; the American flag was actually a symbol of the civil rights movement! It was the anthesis of the confederate flag! Paragons of the black civil rights movement waved it proudly because of what it was supposed to stand for. Racists were big mad. The more they saw the flag, the more they promoted the confederate flag; a symbol of a traitorous and murderous contingent of Americans with too much power. When you see a semblance of the flag on our merchandise, that is what it stands for; a real rebellion; integrity; truth; people. Our very existence is a rebellion. We’ve acted with integrity to build ourselves despite attacks from our white neighbors, with or without their help. Our people will survive. We will thrive. We will be free. America needs to decide if they want to grant us what we’re entitled to, before we decide to take it by any means necessary. ọṣọ aṣa