If the United States Was Honest

If you claim to support law and order, but you get outraged when people take a knee during the national anthem, you don’t support law and order. You support oppression, compliance, and censorship. You value the comfort of your own life and your perceptions of this country over the lives of black and brown people who have been profiled, beaten, and murdered by people that took an oath to serve and protect. You value your emotions over those of families irreparably broken by people who look at other human beings as monsters because of the color of their skin. And, you choose to ignore the fact that it isn’t only a race issue, but that there are countless white people and families who have fallen victim to police officers that have not been held accountable for abandoning their charge of serving and protecting the citizens of this country.

We need to be honest. Because the biggest threat that we face today as a nation, regardless of your race, ethnicity, gender, orientation, ability, immigration status, is not North Korea, or Russia, or Mexico, or any other nation. The biggest threat that we face in this country is American Exceptionalism. Because this blind belief that we are the greatest nation in the world has led us to ignore the thing that makes nations great: its people.

If the United States was honest with itself, it would recognize its role in creating the very systems that oppress not only people of color, but the LGBTQ+ community, women, the disabled, and so many other groups. It would recognize the way that we started this nation was not in fellowship with, but rather the destruction of, indigenous peoples who lived here long before us and that we continue to disrespect, demonize, and displace in pursuit of more land and money. We would recognize our role in violating the peoples in other countries by replacing their leaders with dictators that were more supportive of our own efforts.

If the United States was honest with itself, it would recognize that it told Martin Luther King Jr. to kill himself. It assassinated 21-year-old Fred Hampton, Sr. because dared to use his influence and voice to speak out against the nation. It would admit that it destroyed the Black Panthers because of the way it supported the black community, providing free breakfast to children before they went to school. It would admit to being the orchestrator of the Crack Epidemic and the War on Drugs to tear apart the black community. It destroyed Black Wall Street, razing black-owned businesses and killing black people simply because of the fact that they were black.

If the United States was honest with itself, it would recognize that it doesn’t care about its veterans or soldiers. It would admit that there is not enough mental health care provided to those returning from war, that the services provided are inadequate and nearly impossible to access, and that many wars throughout history have not been fought on moral grounds, but on economic grounds.

If the United States was honest with itself, it would admit that it does not care about its poor. It would admit to being the origin of the myth of the welfare queen. It would come clean in saying that black families were almost completely excluded from any form of welfare until the early 1960s, which wasn’t long before the myth of the welfare queen came out. It would say that there is more than enough money, housing, and other resources to help take care of the homeless. It would admit that its priorities are enriching the top 1% rather than making sure those at the bottom have the basic necessities of life, that everyone earns a living wage, that no one is exploited economically.

If the United States was honest with itself, it would recognize the role we’ve played in Global Warming, how racist housing policies have ensured that communities of color have been affected the most by hurricanes, floods, and bad drinking water. It would admit the effects that HGH and other chemicals have had on animal, plant, and human lives and that it is more concerned with the profits for the chemical producers than for those who have few options other than consuming food that is poisoning their bodies.

If the United States was honest with itself, it would recognize that it prioritizes drug companies over the lives and health of human beings. It would recognize that the fear behind affordable universal healthcare isn’t socialism, but a fear of declining profits. It would see through the reasoning that healthy people should not have to pay for sick people, recognizing that no one is healthy every day of their life. It would recognize that it lacks compassion, that it is cold.

If the United States was honest with itself, it would recognize the mistreatment of women. It would recognize that women are so often the ones pushing this nation forward. It would recognize that women are so often forced to navigate a world in which being twice as good as a man will still only get you half as far. It would recognize that sexism played a large role in this past campaign cycle. It would recognize that society views women through the male gaze, so often seeing them as objects instead of people. It would recognize all of the double standards and the coded language.

If the United States was honest with itself, it would recognize that the Confederate flag and monuments dedicated to the Confederacy are more offensive to the country than a peaceful protest.

If the United States was honest with itself, it would recognize that it would rather see a hashtag than a person expressing their gender identity.

If the United States was honest with itself, it would recognize that it would rather see a hashtag than athletes exercising their First Amendment rights.

Sports are political. They always have been and they always will be. Because having the audacity to exist while being part of a marginalized group is a political statement. My existence, and my will to exist, is a political statement.

Many of these athletes are doing more than just taking a knee. There are countless foundations and programs that these athletes take part in that deal with a lot of the issues that the lazy, ignorant, and uninformed like to throw the words “What about” in front of. The NBA and the WNBA have had their athletes serve millions of hours within the communities that people would rather point at and pass ignorant and smug judgment on than help.

Beyond athletes, there are countless people out there that live within these communities that those that scream “What about” love to scream about. And they are understaffed, underfunded, and still doing incredible work, despite the fact that more people are willing to point fingers rather than open their hands to offer help.

The concept of the United States is nothing more than just that — a concept. It is a symbol that represents a group of people that have taken a pact to work together in order to create a society that benefits all equally. We’ve run into issues because we place more importance on the symbol than what it represents. This country has fallen in love with the idea of the United States instead of recognizing the reality of it.

And, if the United States was honest with itself, it would recognize that it is a reflection of its people.

That’s why people are offended. Because, in seeing Colin Kaepernick and other players take a knee, in seeing the WNBA protest police brutality, in hearing the phrase Black Lives Matter, in reading about the experiences marginalized people have had in this country, in learning about how we have fueled regime change and destroyed other countries, you’re seeing the United States for what it is: a reflection of you.

We all play a role in the reality of this concept.

But those who are protesting, those who are screaming at the top of their lungs “I exist, my people exist, and we deserve to exist” are seeing the United States for what it truly could be. This is why we are so vocal. We do care about this country — our lives are dependent on it in many ways. Demanding change, demanding equality isn’t hatred for one’s country, it’s a vote of confidence that this country can get better.

It is a vote of confidence that we, as a people, can get better, can be better, can do better.

So, I’ll issue a challenge to you. Be honest with yourself. If you want to see people standing during the national anthem, if you want people to stop protesting, if you want the law to be followed, work with those that are on the front lines and really try to make a change in the lives of those around you. If that’s too much, at least make a change within yourself. Educate yourself on the real history of the country. Stop pointing fingers saying that everyone else is wrong because your experience is different. Immerse yourself in literature from voices other than ones you’re used to. Show that you actually care about the people in this country and help facilitate the change.

Because the United States cannot be honest with itself until we are.