So I saw a post this morning on Tumblr about Krystal Lake, a black Home Depot employee in Staten Island that wore a cap embroidered with the saying “America Was Never Great” to work, in obvious protest of Trump’s presidential candidacy.
The cap created a stupid-ass social media firestorm, of course, and that, of course, aggravated me.
So I posted on FB about it:
“Americans” love to say that this nation is the “best” because of the Constitution.
One of their favorite amendments to highlight in said Constitution is the Second Amendment, granting Americans the right to bear arms.
However, the First Amendment–which comes before the Second Amendment, incidentally, says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
So Ms. Lake is acting within her Constitutional rights to speak freely and petition the government, which has allowed the presidential election process and this year’s race to degenerate to such a undignified level.
She is being an American in the truest sense. In as much as one can be a “true” American.
That’s why these “Americans” that take issue with people like Ms. Lake–who voice their dissent of what is happening in this country–kill me.
I don’t care what they say. They don’t actually love America. They love how America privileges them.
Because if they actually loved the process of America–the continual building and maintaining of a relationship of the people to freedom and agency and governance–which is what true democracy is–then they would be able to appreciate Ms. Lake’s exercise of her freedoms, even if they disliked her message.
But no. “Americans” want to have their psychological dicks sucked, like America is a prostitute for which they paid money, and, when it stops or refuses, they get all outraged and violent, like a fucked-up-ass john.
These “Americans” that support Trump–and claim to be patriots–don’t love America. Even when they’re telling people like Ms. Lake to love it or castigating them for not loving it.
What they’re really saying is “Take your report of the awful truth about how the country treats anybody that isn’t white, male, cishet, able-bodied, and/or decently affluent and get the fuck out of here.”
“How dare you make me reflect on or feel guilty about being a beneficiary of this unjust political and economic system or cultural hierarchy.”
It’s self-interest. Not patriotism.
It’s an excellent illustration of the fact that “Americans” wouldn’t recognize or acknowledge actual, change-making greatness if he or she walked up to them wrapped in a flag, with a one-dollar bill stuck to his or her forehead, a copy of the Constitution in his or her hand, singing “The Star Spangled Banner” at the top of his or her lungs.
Especially if he or she wasn’t white.
Since the pretty much sums up how I feel about the ridiculousness of people taking issue with Ms. Lake’s cap–for God’s sake–I’m going to dedicate the rest of this post to talking about something else:
Self-righteous white people’s penchant for telling black people like Ms. Lake–that have the “audacity” to complain about the social, economic, or political climate–to “go back to Africa” if they’re so unhappy here.
This is the equivalent of beating someone’s ass and then telling them, when they complain about the bruises you gave them, to strip the bruises off if they hurt so badly.
(I had a more explicit metaphor involving sexual assault and genital herpes, but I went with this one as not to trigger anyone or trivialize anyone’s experiences. But you can imagine how it would’ve gone.)
It’s fucking absurd to tell black people whose lineages stretch back at least as far, if not further, than your average white American’s to go “back” to Africa.
It’s an impossibility based on racist and faulty reasoning.
Black people descended from Africans that were KIDNAPPED during the Atlantic Slave Trade and COERCED into coming to America are not the same as the children or grandchildren or even great-grandchildren of diasporic blacks that emigrated to America BY CHOICE in the last century.
From 1619 to 1776–that’s one whole century of slavery and colonialism–there was no “America” as we know it. There was no democracy for Africans to prefer to the leadership of their own land–no Constitution guaranteeing a set of rights that they couldn’t get at home.
So there was obviously no immigration for a “better life.” There was no seeking political asylum. There was fucking CHATTEL SLAVERY, and that was that.
There were slave codes that forbade reading, writing, marriage, assembly, ownership of land and/or weapons, free movement and travel, and defending oneself against attack by a white person.
Bastardized religious brainwashing.
Total political and economic disfranchisement.
Separation and estrangement from family and friends.
Rape as a means of control and demoralization.
Beatings and killings.
After the Revolutionary War, the creation of the nation, and the institution of the Constitution, so-called freedom–trademarked “American”–was then available, but slaves were still slaves.
They played pivotal roles in building America to the height of its greatness–shit–in building America, period–but they were not full citizens.
They had the desires for legitimate citizenry mocked by having to watch and listen while all around them white people created the vocabulary with which they would proceed to talk about America–a vocabulary centered on how “free” the country is–while they were being held in literal and metaphysical chains.
This didn’t mean, though, that they were exempted from having to labor to build this nation.
While white people constructed all sorts of concepts of what America is, people of color–the majority black and the majority of them slaves–constructed buildings and bridges and railroads and all the physical structures and many of the landmarks and inventions that would make America great–that would house all the economic transactions, political deals, and debates that would shape the country from the inside out.
Too, they were having whatever memories and practices they had of their homes in Africa beaten out of them by masters that understood that people that have no concept of a different or better life don’t try to change the miserable lives they have.
And the whole while, these incredible black people, while bearing up under the yoke, were having children.
Children born HERE.
Children whose first language was English.
Children whose concepts of themselves, home, and country were uniquely (and I say that with immense sarcasm and disdain) American.
Then, after 1808, except for in the case of a few illegal traders using “whaling” as a cover, whites stopped kidnapping and bringing Africans over here to enslave.
Black people that had come from Africa continued through the circle of their lives. As they died, their remembrances and teachings died with them. A traceable, cogent link to African cultures and practices died with them. They left children and grandchildren that only remembered living here. That only remembered how to live here.
The salt water and blood violence did their job.
The black people in America began to “belong” to it.
They began to feel as invested in it as white people because that’s how people feel about home, no matter how horrible it is.
They are attached to it.
They want it.
They find some nourishment–no matter how piddling–in it.
I and every other black person born here–whose parents or grandparents or great-grandparents did not emigrate here in the last century–WE are descended from slaves.
This is not a point of shame for me. It’s a historical fact. It doesn’t make me feel weak or insignificant. It makes me feel proud and–yes–entitled.
I am entitled to my American-ness because all the dead in my lineage that I know by name and/or face are buried here, and they lived here, and they worked here, and that worked helped to make this country what it is.
America has never existed, even in its nascent form, without black people.
There were black people at Jamestown, which white historians designate as the starting point of the country. The start of the historical narrative.
So I have just as much of a claim to America as any white person, and maybe even more than a white person whose parents or grandparents or great-grandparents did emigrate here in the last century.
I have a right to be angry when this country fails me because it’s made promises to me.
I have a right to complain because the Constitution says I can. You know–if you want to be pedantic about it.
And I don’t have to leave if I don’t like what the fuck is happening here.
Just like all these discontented Trump supporters, who want back the suppressive America of its youth, I can agitate for change because THIS IS MY COUNTRY.
No one can tell me to go “home” because THIS is my home.
I won’t be relocating until God says so, so–
There. Or rather here.
White Americans may never fix what they’ve broken in and about this country, but they won’t silence me with their ignorant jeers about leaving, either.
You hear me?
And if they want to mad about that, then they can blame their ancestors, who made this my home when I never asked for it to be.
Just like I do.