Photo Source: Facebook
(BALTIMORE – August 25, 2017) – Looking at current events in this country, especially recently, my heart grieves. From the NFL vs. Kaepernick, to this current Presidential administration, to the incidents in Charlottesville proves to me at least that yes we’ve come along way but still have a long way to go.
I considered myself a history buff. But, I’m sad to say, I didn’t even know the National Anthem had additional verses to it other then the first. We’ve sang elegance to it and the flag practically every day of our lives since kindergarten. It took Colin Kaepernick to protest for me to investigate, and when I did, I was offended. This same national anthem clearly talks about recapturing runaway slaves and implies killing them. Wow…
I realize “the free” mentioned in the song wasn’t meant for me. How can I pledge allegiance to a song written about killing my ancestors, especially now that I know?
Although I never knew this about the anthem, what I’ve seen with my own eyes in this country made me less patriotic than most. Studying history and seeing the horrors my father and grandfather lived with and through … Dr. King was assassinated in 1968. I was born in 1972 … This wasn’t that long ago – not so long ago such that the people who lived then and participated in oppression: Many of them are still alive. Many have sown hate into their sons and grandsons. They are now our corporate CEOs, judges, bank loan officers and, yes, police officers.
We can get desensitized to things that have always been there and seemed harmless … like the anthem or Confederate monuments. That’s like WWII ending Nazi Germany, but the descendants of the Jews there have to walk pass a statue of Adolf Hitler when they enjoy a day in the park. Again…this wasn’t on my radar, but now it is.
In 1979, I was 7-years-old. And like most little boys I was into cars and racing. I attended Hilton Elementary School in West Baltimore where Moe Hammond and I would often take turns drawing cartoon characters and cars. That same year, a TV show aired called The Dukes of Hazzard. This show was about some outlaw hillbillies living in the mountains operating just outside the law. They often got in car chases with the local police and would always escape because of their bright orange 69 Dodge Charger; they painted a Confederate flag on the roof and named it The General Lee.
To kids my age, especially boys, this was the number one show on TV. We loved the Dukes of Hazzard and the General Lee. One day in school, I drew a picture of the General Lee. It looked perfect and I was proud. Almost the moment I finished, my teacher saw it and asked what is this. I proudly answer “The General Lee!” (like, you don’t know?!)
She snatched it and ripped it into pieces and asked, “Do you know what that flag means on the hood? Do you even know who General Lee was?”
I said, “No”. I told her about the show she’d never seen. She gave me detention. I was angry and confused. But after school, this woman closed her classroom door and told me she’s limited in what she can say in class. She went on to say she’s not upset with me and the reason she held me after school is to give me knowledge she couldn’t during class. She went on for the next 30 minutes telling me as much as my young mind could handle about slavery, the Civil War, who General Lee was, racism, segregation, and why I shouldn’t celebrate General Lee, why I should never use my artistic talent to draw such a separatist symbol like the Confederate flag, the plight of black people in America … and how, although 1979, we still have a long way to go until we see the end of white supremacy.
Almost 40 years later, when you watch current events, when you hear the President speak, when you see people marching in Charlottesville with the American, Nazi, and Confederate flags together, you see, even now, we still have a long way to go.
It’s important our kids learn history unfiltered no matter how ugly the truth. Otherwise, we get a partial picture. It’s no mistake textbooks and curriculums don’t in most cases. It’s not an easy thing to discuss, but it is necessary if we are to move forward as a nation.