Since kindergarten, the American Flag, the Anthem, and the Pledge of Allegiance always puzzled me. Often times, I was sent to the Principal or to the “corner” for being “disruptive”… for not participating in saying the Pledge of Allegiance. I would simply either sit or stand without saying anything while accepting the verbal abuse from my teacher. #soundfamiliar
My parents always encouraged… more like enforced me to stand for what I believe in… so at a young age, I learned they are 3 different Americas: Mines, yours and society.
My parents were very active in my life. With their flaws and all, they encouraged me to figure out my own path. I remember going to elementary school and it was the first time I was separated from my twin. Among other things, my parents were not pleased with the curriculum because it was a “watered down” education to American history among other things. So they took it among themselves to have me and my sisters not only learn our history but literally…. EVERYBODY elses’ history. We not only went to the library and events but we learned the ethnic history of our neighbors (all through out elementary school). We celebrated all New Years: American, Chinese and Cambodian. We knew about different weddings, celebrations, histories and just the diversities of people lives in this country.
So imagine… Lil’ ol’ me… starting kindergarten in 1987 … in East Oakland… with all this information and experience…
This is where I learned that I live in a different America.
So at home, my parents were teaching about African Diaspora, Black History and being an African American. Then I learned about the Black Power movement… OMG… that was soooo inspiring and uplifting! I went to my school saying, “Black Power”, “Black is beautiful”. Although nobody knew what I was talking about, some were like “Shanina is just weird”. I went as far as not following my teacher’s instructions, so I colored everything black and brown for all my ethnic folks. I was just excited that I mattered!
But…not everyone felt the same way….
So after several days of my Black Power stance, I was in the Principal’s office. I was freaking out because I knew I didn’t do anything wrong. Right? So my parents, teacher and principal are there. I’m still unsure why I’m there. But to find out will alarm you.
The teacher insinuated that since I liked beige, brown and black colors so much that I was being abused and severely depressed. My parents were also accused of being uneducated because we were poor. That education was not taken seriously at my house because I don’t know my colors, numbers and a lot of other stuff. The teacher also said that my parents were awful and needed to go to counseling. Due to my lack of education, that I should be in remediation.
Sooooooooo…. you can say I was very scared for my life. I knew what the teacher was talking about but I did not perceive it that way. I was so scared I couldn’t cry.
So after the teacher said allllll that… my parents were so calm – angry. Like my dad’s eyes were popping out his head. My mom tilted her head to the side looking like “I will snatch this teacher soul”. I never seen them like that before. So my mom… closed her eyes and asked me to say my numbers and name the colors in the office. Which I did! And knew! So the teacher said why didn’t you do your colors right in class? My answer, “because black is beautiful”. My dad kindly excused me from the Principal’s office. I don’t know what was said, but I was upset that my parents didn’t switch me to be in the same class as my twin. Lol
I did get in trouble for not following instructions, not paying attention and just being hard headed. lol But my parents had a real conversation about her assumptions and perceptions of who I was and our family. That some teachers have unconscious racism that affects their teaching. That I would have to work harder than normal to get ahead in life. You can say I become very quiet and reserve in class after that day.
After countless experience of racism, I just performed what was American. Because my questions were perceived as disruptive, rude & unpatriotic. #soundfamiliar
In middle school, I learned more in depth about American history. The biggest difference was, I had teachers that were willing to engage and teach. This is where I discovered what is freedom, the National Anthem and the war of 1812.
“1814, Francis Scott Key wrote the poem, Defense of Fort McHenry. The poem later put to the tune of (John Stafford Smith’s song) The Anacreontic Song, modified somewhat, and retitled The Star Spangled Banner. Congress proclaimed The Star Spangled Banner the U.S. National Anthem in 1931.” Read more: Scout Song
The National Anthem was written during a time when people of color weren’t free, had no rights and weren’t consider human. Key writes a stanza that is not sung as a part of the Anthem:
“And where is that band who so vauntingly swore. That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion. A home and a country should leave us no more? Their blood has wash’d out their foul footsteps’ pollution. No refuge could save the hireling and slave. From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave: And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave. O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
So for me, I didn’t look at the flag the same because my experiences did not reflect the freedom that was in that song. Some will say, Shanina, your are free… but is that really true… But aren’t we still discussing the same unaddressed issues that is in the National Anthem?!? What is it going to take to address racial injustices in this country?
If we know that the bases of the National Anthem is not inclusive or symbolic to the freedoms that had to be passed by law which includes women, people of color, immigrants etc… is it okay to admit that we just need to adopt a new one? Maybe that is too much for people but the Anthem perpetuate the racism and violence that still is with us today.
In this regard to my patriotism, I see myself as a loyal opposition. What is that? According to reference.com Loyal opposition:
“The loyal opposition is a group of people, either elected officials or private citizens, who organize to oppose the majority party. Originally designed to keep officials safe from charges of treason, it now applies to any organized group of dissenters who seek to disrupt the programs of the party in charge.”
Yes, I know I am not in a position of power, but follow my train of thought. When it comes to protesting there is never a right way. There is nothing convenient about it. Protest disrupts what is normal. For example, when slavery was abolished. People of color having voting rights (well, this is sadly debatable). People with physical disabilities having access buildings. Look at Rosa Parks, Malcom X, Elaine Brown, Martin Luther King Jr, Cesar Chavez, Ella Baker, Dick Gregory, Yoko Ono and MANY MORE! Nothing convenient about discussing social justice. Nothing convenient about confronting racial injustices, discrimination. Protesting is acknowledging that our country has not done a great job discussing and addressing race relations among other issues with diversity. It doesn’t mean out of sight, out of mind… Its happening!
The definition of an ally is usually “a person, group, or nation that is associated with another or others for some common cause or purpose”. I’m asking you to take it a step further … I was taught an ally doesn’t have to share the same views as me. So I am asking you to ally with someone/group you don’t share the same views… #saywhat
I may disagree with things but it doesn’t stop me from being there… speaking out and doing something! An ally can’t pick and choose what part of someone/group life they want to “ally” with… that is not an ally! ( at least in my book) I am not saying be a super human and do everything … Pick an issue unlike your own experience!
Ally meaning not dehumanizing other folks experience with patriotism or experiences in this country… Meaning just because we don’t share the same story doesn’t mean we are irrelevant to each other … meaning stand up for me when folks say racist things in your presents … meaning if a chair wasn’t there for me to sit at the table you got my folding chair… Having empathy, sympathy and compassion are very different. I am asking for folks to be empathetic which requires us to have a relationship and talk beyond social media.
Shaun King ^^^”The most important and relevant thing you could read from MLK right now. Please read this.It’s as if he saw where we are today and spoke to our troubles.” Facebook post on 9/3/16
History is bound to repeat itself if we do not learn from it.