It’s easy to deny the pain of any oppressed minority by dismissing their claims of being wronged when you’re in line with the oppressor. These past few weeks have been no exception of this deeply rooted tradition of the United States and its 45th president: White Supremacy.
Its tradition is carried out in the actions of the 45th president’s retaliatory response to those protesting police injustice against minorities by kneeling during the national anthem. Donald Trump categorized Colin Kaepernick and those who stand with him as some “son’s of b**ches” while calling for their immediate dismissal from their profession during a speech in Alabama. He does this for the validation of his audience. He takes in the applause and cheers from the crowd. While there are people who lead you to believe that he only dislikes those who oppose him, which they’d be right, but they’d also be missing the larger point.
Those that oppose Trump do so because his rise to the most powerful political position of the United States is only possible within a foundation of white supremacy. He was an unqualified candidate who built his political platform by further popularizing the birtherism movement against Obama, which Ta-Nehisi Coates, a national correspondent at The Atlantic, reminds us of in his article on Trump. Birtherism was a movement that called into question the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s citizenship. A movement that ultimately pressured the 44th president of the United States to present his birth certificate.
Coates also illustrates Trump’s deep-seeded racism throughout the years by prohibiting black people from being residents of his buildings after the FBI released records of their discrimination case.
One of the former doormen at a building that Trump owned was told by a supervisor, “that if a black person came to 2650 Ocean Parkway and inquired about an apartment for rent, and he, that is [redacted] was not there at the time, that I should tell him that the rent was twice as much as it really was, in order that he could not afford the apartment.”
So, how does this fall in line with this perception of patriotism and how does it coincide with the white supremacy? The issue here is that patriotism can only be exercised superficially with clothing that has the American flag (which is against the U.S. Code 176, section d) or by glorifying our military and police. It isn’t by exercising the rights endowed by every American citizen.
When this glorification of the military or police is called into question, it is immediately met with dismissive statements about being unpatriotic. What is being protested aren’t those organizations, but the racism that lies in the structures of those institutions and the lack of accountability for police in the justice system. When the argument is disguised as disrespect against the military, it creates a cultural glare that blinds those who don’t actually want to see the truth.
The perception of patriotism subscribes to the modern myth that our society is based on equality, but our history is an easy thing to forget for those unaffected. This perception allows those in power to wash over the great evil of slavery perpetuated against black people. This institutionalization of racism that poisoned the well of our country eventually led to a war between two halves of the country. A war that cost the lives of 620,000 soldiers with the reasons for it were quickly dispelled. Black people in America were characterized as “slow-thinking” and lazy with Jim Crow. Segregation was enforced with violence, such as lynching, while white supremacists stared back smiling into a camera with pride.
These are viewed as relics of the hazy American past, but they’re a part of the pedestal that Trump built his entire campaign around. Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, and so many others are the public, present day lynchings that Kaepernick is protesting. The belief that the United States is a post-racial society simply because we had one black president with Barack Obama is a generalization that subscribes to the American myth that “all men are made equal.”
When Trump has the audacity to qualify those who protest against police brutality as a “son of a b**ch,” but defends white supremacists during the Charlottesville protests by stating there is “very fine people on both sides,” he knows well what he’s doing. He’s defending white supremacy because he and his base are participants of that ideology. They can’t hide behind the phrase, “But I’m not a racist,” because that only uses their privilege to stay out of it somehow. A luxury that is not afforded to those who are victims of white supremacy.
These are the pervasive and damaging ideologies that citizens like Kaepernick and his colleagues protest when they are taking a knee during the national anthem. It isn’t meant to disrespect the flag, if anything it honors his first amendment right as well as the soldiers who served and continue to serve to protect it. The fact that a citizen using his first amendment right inspires such disdain in the 45th president says more about him and those who support him. They subscribe to the reality of white supremacy and as long as it does them no harm, then their myth of America remains.
[Featured Image by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images]