“I love America more than any other country in this world. And, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”
Wise words that have never rang truer from James Baldwin. My America growing up was simple. Did I come from money? No. Did my dad work three jobs to support us? Yes. Was I the first in my entire family to graduate college? Also yes. By no means was my life handed to me on a so-called silver platter and I point this out specifically to prove that white America’s view of patriotism is often quite contradictory. I would also like to state that yesterday, today, tomorrow, and forever I am grateful to those who have served our country and risked the greatest sacrifice. Everything I discuss below is not at all about the military, rather an extremely dangerous interpretation of patriotism from others who believe that as citizens of America we must not think critically about the way in which our country is a vastly different experience based upon your race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.
My America is a different America from that of my Black and brown friends. My America is a different America from that of my LGBTQIA+ friends. My America as well as the America for all white, straight, cisgender, able bodied, neurotypical, middle class citizen is a fairly wonderful place and I will never take for granted all that I have been able to do because of that. However, it is damn near impossible these days to claim ignorance of the deeply rooted dangers of white supremacy within this country. So, I would like to make it very clear what loving your country means to us here at Kind Cotton…
Loving your country means loving all the inhabitants of America and I don’t mean this as a colorblind blanketed statement of we are all equal because unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 400 years and have now just emerged like Brandon Fraiser from Blast From the Past you know something is wrong. And if you are one of those "systemic racism doesn’t exist and I worked hard for what I got" people, I am here to tell you how very wrong you are. I am here to tell you that, I too worked hard, but I did not go to jail when I broke the law as a teenager. I do not have people follow me around in stores. I can run in my neighborhood without being harassed or shot. I can voice my opinions without being called angry and bitter. I can safely reach for my driver’s license when pulled over. My family hasn’t experienced Jim Crow, redlining, the War on Drugs, mass incarceration, poorly funded schools. My America is different and if your skin is white, so is yours.
I want to create change in our country. I want to continue to fight for what is right and teach my daughter to stand up and speak out on behalf of oppression. It is my hope that in actively advocating for others we can create an America in which liberty and justice for all is a reality. Not merely words adopted by congress in 1942 that don’t ring true for many Americans.
Patriotism is not only saying Black Lives Matter and posting a black square in solidarity with the Black community. It is taking steps necessary for change. It is acknowledging your part in systemic racism and doing what you can to create a shift within those systems. It’s educating those in your life, because let’s face it, the fact that most of America just learned about The Tulsa Massacre this year is proof that we’ve learned a whitewashed version of history. Patriotism is NOT drinking your Budweiser, singing your country songs, and wearing your flags, but doing nothing to make our country a better, more inclusive space for all. Patriotism is acknowledging a problem and doing everything in your power to bring attention to it in order to make an impact. Colin Kaepernick taking a knee was not disrespectful, it was patriotic. Kaepernick brought attention, on a broad scale, to what so many Black Americans have been screaming for centuries while being silenced. Disrespecting our country and teaching others to think critically are drastically different.
Patriotism is wearing a simple piece of cloth over your face in public even if you do not believe in the science behind it because it may save one person. Patriotism is not crying that your rights are being taken away and you are oppressed for having to wear a mask. Patriotism is global care, not selfishness.
Patriotism is intersectional. It is not just posting rainbows in the month of June. In order to be inclusive, we must fight to protect all members of the LGBTQIA+ population. The anti-trans bills that have been proposed in multiple states and have become law here in Florida are dangerous and dehumanizing. Calling and emailing representatives is patriotic. Loving and affirming all children is patriotic, not banning them.
The lists goes on, but the message stays the same. We all need to build a better world for the next generation. One in which we value and embrace our differences. A world that doesn’t hide from our historical truth, but looks to rectify it. With change comes resistance, but at Kind Cotton it is our mission to continue to push for what’s right.
So, in honor of a holiday that truly does not represent the freedom of all Americans let us remember to do better. To show up not when it is merely convenient and on performative levels, but to truly advocate for a country we can all be proud of. ACTIVISM IS PATRIOTIC.