“America is lucky black people are wanting equality and not revenge.”

I can’t take any credit for the quote above. I saw it on Twitter and I really wish I had screenshot it at the time to give the poster their due now. If that quote sent chills up your spine, good.

Here’s another quote for you: Respect is earned and not demanded. The word “disrespect” has been thrown around a lot these past few days, most notably about the NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem. You know, the same song written by a slave owner during a time when slavery was legal. The same song that includes a verse about the spilling of blood of escaped slaves. Yes, that song that people insist encapsulates American values, but certainly wasn’t written with black people — or any people of color — in mind. I guess in a way, those people would be right.

Think about it: this country was “discovered” by people who thought they were unfairly treated in Europe, then came over by boat and took the land from people who already lived here peacefully. Those same people then went to another country, took people who were minding their own business and brought them back here to work in the fields, all while erasing their culture, their languages, their heritage and their families. This is how America started and this is how it has continued through Jim Crow, suffrage, throwing Asian-Americans into internment camps after D Day, and more. Respect has never been earned. It’s been forced through fear and intimidation. Then you throw religion on top of that, but only certain verses. Not the verses that say those who have never sinned can judge others. The ones that say we should take care of each other. The verses that says if you say you love the Lord but hate your brother, then you are a liar, because God made us all in His likeness. You get my point.

Sure, there are good things about America. I can type this up with no fear of any ramifications from my government (for now). I can drive and vote (for now). I can choose whatever life I want to live and send my kids to whatever school will best benefit them. I can marry who I want. I can live where I want. For that, I and all my fellow citizens are truly blessed. We are blessed to have so many rights that other countries don’t.

But that’s just it. Though we all have the same rights as citizens, some people loudly declare that some of us shouldn’t. That includes the right to protest the injustices, inequalities, and racism that are engrained in our history. How we choose to protest is not up to anyone else but the person who is kneeling, or has their fist in the air, or turns their back on the flag, or locks arms in a line against people with dogs, hoses and guns. The same people yelling about disrespect are probably the same ones who wear shirts and buy paper plates and napkins with the flag on it, even though the code says we are not to do that.

Speaking of our military, do you know what is really disrespectful to our service men and women? That they have to worry their pay is on the cutting board each year. How long they have to wait to get basic treatments at the VA hospital. Or, God forbid, if they come back with an injury or PTSD that they could end up an addict and homeless with no help from the government they fought for. That a five-time draft dodger calls a Prisoner of War “not a real war hero.” Talk about disrespect!

On September 11, we united against terrorism, even if just for a short period. We recognized that this country, and every single person living here, was under attack not as African-Americans or Caucasians or Asian-Americans or Native Americans — but as Americans. Tragedy brought us together, and now we need to unite more than ever. It will take a lot of hard work and lots of uncomfortable discussions, but it needs to be done. If the traditionally marginalized are not heard and listened to, feeling disrespected will be the least of this nation’s worries.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.