For Black Americans, The American Flag Evokes Mixed Emotions

Just like a few American holidays, July 4th, also known as Independence Day, is a time when Americans fly the American flag in honor of America and all that she represents.  As for me, there was a time when I would have resisted flying Old Glory, much less take pride in it. As stated in my poem “Lingering Reality”:

As awful and unpatriotic as it may seem to you
I laugh at the thought of the “Red, White and Blue”.
It symbolizes freedom justice and equality
(But the flag doesn’t mean a thing to me).
It is just a piece of cloth which symbolizes words.
True freedom, justice and equality are totally absurd.

But after maturing and evolving from the “militant radical” that I was once called, it is my opinion that there is nothing wrong with flying Old Glory. I have come to realize that regardless of the racial, social and economic ills within this country, it is still the place where I was born and raised. It is the country where my ancestors battled and died so that I could have the freedom that I have today. I realize that this country’s industry, infrastructure, and economic prowess are in large measure built upon the blood, sweat and tears of black men and women. In this sense ,and spirit, I take pride in my country. This is my country, regardless if I am subject to institutional racism and socioeconomic inequities, and I am loath to allow others’ actions hijack my ideals of the America that I know can become a reality.

Black Americans are too easy to discount the ongoing struggle of our people when we proclaim that America is not our country. Even in all its imperfections and injustices, America is the birthplace of African-Americans, and the American flag symbolizes the spirit upon which America is based—the spirit of freedom. We must remember that it is not the flag that is the problem within America, it is the people who fly the flag without reflecting on what the flag truly represents.

Ironically, it is for this very same reason why many blacks will never fly Old Glory. Why should I, as a black person, fly the flag of a nation that systematically treats me as a second class citizen? To be sure, in the eyes of many blacks, the sight of the American flag evokes images of hypocrisy.  The person that said “time heals all wounds” didn’t address whether deeper wounds take more time to heal. But, regardless, if today’s state of race relations in America is any indication, then fresh wounds upon black skin is still being inflicted, and the American flag is but a bandage that is still presently being soaked with African-American blood.

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