I’m definitely late to the national anthem/American flag party. But I think it’s a classic and perfect illustration of the misunderstanding between the diverse races/ethnicities that make up the Melting Pot that is America. History is usually written by the victors, and for us white Americans, there have been many victories. We discovered early on that all men are created equal and were victorious in the fight for that with Britain. Other victories followed over the years, not without tragedy and much precious sacrifice. To us the national anthem, the flag, America, represents freedom and individual liberty against the tyrants of the world.
To African Americans, the flag represents a country that didn’t think it’s slaves were men who were created equal, who have fought viciously to keep segregation even after emancipation up to the present. To Japanese Americans it represents a country that rounded them up causing them to lose their homes and businesses to be housed in camps during World War II, some only recently having received compensation so many years later. Chinese Americans in many cities experienced a country where they were driven out by their white neighbors. Mexican Americans have definitely been the object of discrimination and prejudice. And of course to the Native Americans, America represents the people who stole their lands, reneged on contracts, and wiped out entire populations of elderly, women, and children. Middle Eastern Americans live in fear of their lives and loss if property every time a terrorist attack happens. I know Americans of other ethnicities, religions, and sexual orientations have experienced similar terror and hatred.
So now we have a classically representative misunderstanding among the American people that is causing stress, chaos, and indignant self-righteousness. It’s important to understand that our perspective, our reality, is not the only one. Yes, people have given their lives and family to die for this country. It’s right for them to be honored. Yes, America thought it understood that all men were created equal while even to this day it continues to deny that truth.
I personally have loved seeing the football team members, some standing, some kneeling, all holding hands in quiet acknowledgement and respect for the national anthem and the flag, while still creating awareness that America is not yet the country that it ought to be. Hopefully, together, we can grow in understanding and caring for each other until we become a community that loves its neighbors, that genuinely cares for the least of these.