Land of the free?

Baltimore Sun - - FROM PAGE ONE - Donte’ L. Hick­man, Baltimore The writer is pas­tor of South­ern Bap­tist Church in Baltimore City, Har­ford and Howard coun­ties.

Colin Kaeper­nick took a knee at the singing of our na­tional an­them last year be­cause his con­science would not al­low him to ig­nore the in­jus­tices ex­acted on un­armed black men at the hands of Amer­i­can law en­force­ment. All across the coun­try we con­stantly heard about the bru­tal­ity and gun­shots that brazenly took the lives of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Phi­lando Castille, Al­ton Ster­ling and Fred­die Gray. And not long af­ter we heard and saw video footage of that bru­tal­ity, we heard not-guilty ver­dicts. The ver­dict of not guilty was al­most as gut-wrench­ing as the deaf­en­ing si­lence of white gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, busi­ness lead­ers and faith lead­ers. All of a sud­den an ethos of am­biva­lence about black lives was in­ti­mated and re­al­ized among ev­ery class of African-Amer­i­cans. No one was tak­ing a stand, so Colin took a knee.

And then came the fire and the fury of white na­tion­al­ism. How­dare­hedis­re­spect the Amer­i­can flag and the na­tional an­them? For many white Amer­i­cans the flag and the an­them rep­re­sent a proud his­tory of blood, sweat and tears that won this coun­try’s in­de­pen­dence. But for black Amer­i­cans the con­text of that his­tory was chains and slav­ery. Some say that was so long ago and we should get over it, but the re­ver­ber­a­tions of his­tory yet en­slave black Amer­i­cans eco­nom­i­cally, ed­u­ca­tion­ally and en­vi­ron­men­tally. And when po­lice bru­tal­ity and mur­der is ex­on­er­ated through the jus­tice sys­tem and rat­i­fied by the si­lence of white Amer­i­cans, it de­mands our vo­cif­er­ous protest.

To not protest is un-Amer­i­can. For that is what it truly means to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. Those who are free have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure the free­doms of the least, the lost and the left out. And those who are brave have the right to ex­press dis­con­tent­ment with in­jus­tice.

As a cit­i­zen of this great coun­try, I love Amer­ica. I love its beauty, it’s op­por­tu­ni­ties, its lib­er­ties and its pur­suit of equal­ity. But Amer­ica must be brave enough to love me as well. The same brav­ery it took to abol­ish slav­ery, de­seg­re­gate schools and end Jim Crow laws is the same brav­ery it will take to un­mask and dis­avow a racist cul­ture that dis­en­fran­chises and emas­cu­lates black lives. The free­dom and brav­ery of Amer­ica al­ways fights against de­hu­man­iza­tion and au­toc­racy around the world but de­nies it within its own bor­ders.

Let’s demon­strate our brav­ery in this gen­er­a­tion of Amer­ica by say­ing no to the vit­ri­olic lan­guage of our pres­i­dent and those who would dele­git­imize our true her­itage and legacy for a more­my­opic, re­vi­sion­ist and stag­nant doc­trine of Amer­i­can na­tion­al­ism. Let us be brave enough to chal­lenge our ju­di­cial sys­tems to up­hold the civil rights for all peo­ple. Let’s be brave enough to re­spond re­spect­fully to those who risk mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar ca­reers to take a knee against a gov­ern­ment that turns a blind eye to un­armed vic­tims be­ing slaugh­tered in the streets of the great­est coun­try in the world. Let’s be brave enough to em­pathize with those who are poor and don’t have the same ac­cess, let alone the same prow­ess, ex­ceed the en­vi­ron­ments that our pub­lic poli­cies have all but en­slaved them in. Let’s be brave enough to im­prove health in our ur­ban cen­ters that threaten the sus­tain­abil­ity of our com­mu­ni­ties and safety of our chil­dren. It’s easy to demon­strate our cow­ardice by cir­cum­vent­ing the real is­sues. But that’s not in­dica­tive of the land of the free and the home of the brave.

DREW SHENEMAN/STAR-LEDGER

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