by Ramone Romero.
It seems sometimes that in the national debate about #TakeAKnee the focus has become about “the flag” and “the anthem”, and it is often being forgotten that #TakeAKnee is a protest about the systemic injustices of law enforcement against people of color.
Yet even if that is forgotten in the news and chatter, this is still intensely about race.
The #TakeAKnee protests in the NFL (and spreading across the sports world) are offensive precisely because they began with black athletes.
The offense people are taking as disrespect to the flag, the anthem and to “America” itself comes because these are black athletes protesting.
How dare they interrupt the anthem?
How dare they not salute the flag in the way we want?
How dare they draw any amount of attention to themselves?
How dare they interrupt our holy moment of nationalistic worship?
The bottom line is that to many Americans, the lives of people of color are considered less important than flag and anthem worship. A symbol and a song are more important than black lives and the cries of people of color against injustice.
Eric Garner died being choked by the NYPD as he tried to protest, “I can’t breathe.” And just like the officers were exonerated for killing him, the same underlying message of the uproar against the #TakeAKnee protest is:
That’s right, people of color,
You can’t breathe.
You’re not allowed to.
Not until the anthem is over.
Not until you exit the stadium.
Not while you’re on national TV.
You’re not allowed to breathe,
unless it is just to sing along,
to sing the song of American freedom,
to sing along that equality has come,
that regardless of whatever you experience,
this is the land of the free.
You had better not breathe anything different than that.
Anything else you say has to wait.
If you want to breathe a protest, you do it when we say you can.
You breathe when we say you breathe.
Honestly, think about it: If white athletes were taking a knee for cancer or AIDS, to support veterans or almost anything else, this would not be objectionable. The problem is that it is black athletes, and that they are protesting for justice.
It’s not about disrespecting the flag and anthem (kneeling is the very opposite of disrespect). It’s about disrespecting the ORDER of where black people are supposed to be. It’s about them getting out of the place we think they should stay in.
It is about them breathing out of place.
The voices and cries of people of color do not matter in America as much as nationalistic worship does. Their lives and suffering do not matter as much as nationalistic worship. Justice and injustice do not matter as much as nationalistic worship.
And the truth is that this is how America has been since the beginning (and since before its beginning).
“What does July 4th mean to the slave?” asked Frederick Douglass. And what does it mean to live “in a free country” for Native Americans who lost their freedom when America overran their homelands?
The scales of justice have always been tipped against people of color in America.
“Freedom” has always been for the white majority more than for people of color.
And when people of color stand up to demand freedom, America has always resisted giving it to them with all of its might.
Attempts to turn the myth of “all men are created equal” into reality have always offended those who hold onto the spirit America was founded with.
If we really want “freedom” and “equality”, “truth” and “justice”, then we absolutely need to be set free from our idolatry of the flag, anthem, and national myths.
We can’t look to the founders, the flag, or the anthem for inspiration. We can’t look to the Declaration or the Constitution.
Because embedded in each of those things is oppression. We can’t appeal to justice in the past in order to establish justice today because the past was unjust, and our national myths whitewash it.
We have to become better than our past.
We have to become better people than the founders were.
We have to find a better glory than our “old glory” flag— a glory that values lives more than national symbols.
We have to find a better song to sing than our anthem— a song that lifts up the oppressed instead of telling them not to breathe unless they’re singing along.
Ramone Romero is an artist based in Osaka, Japan. Follow his prophetic artwork and poetry at Weeping Jeremiahs.
3 thoughts on “Black Lives Don’t Matter As Much As the National Anthem”
Very thought…full…beyond the article I have been turning a couple of questions in my mind…how much, along with the existing issues, was it a protest to the President’s remarks…(obviously a lot)…how do we address the pain of veterans, of all races, when it comes to their pain, sacrifices, and disabilities, and the meaning of these symbols to them (understanding that some veterans are with this protest)!
The star spangled is an idol of heaven and the bald eagle is an idol of the earth…The god of the US is the star spangled of heaven and the bald eagle of the earth…The flag demands worship, through the pledge of allegiance and anthem…The founding fathers made images of the stars, of the moon, of the sun, of birds, and four footed beasts, in the likeness of heaven above and in the likeness of the earth below, to serve them…The devil uses Romans 13 to deceive those who don’t believe what God said in Ex.20:1-5, and De.4:15-19…God is not against those serving in authority, God is against those serving idols…The devil has blinded the minds of those who are patriotic to the flag…Those who have liberty in Christ, don’t need to fight for their liberty…Those whos wars are spiritual in high places, don’t need to go to war with carnal weapons…Those whos kingdom is not of this world, don’t need to fight for the kingdom of this world…When the king of Babylon the great played the anthem, at the sound of music the Babylonians bowed down to worship the gold image…Today, when the US plays the anthem, at the sound of music the US citizens stand on their feet to sing the song “old glory” to the star spangled of heaven…The idol worshipers cannot see the nations idols high and lifted up on a flag pole…The god of Canada is the leaf of the maple tree of the earth…The god of Mexico is the eagle and serpent of the earth…The god of Japan is the sun of heaven…The god of Israel is the star remphan of heaven Acts 7:43…Israel calls it the star of David…Nations that exalt themselves to be great, are going to be brought down to hell, like when God overthrew ancient Babylon, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, and the Germans…And those who put their trust in a man, or in a nation, or in military strength…God says in Jer.17:5, “cursed is the one who trusts in man, and makes flesh his strength”…To avoid serving idols, and the mark of the beast, we must believe what God said in Ex.20:1-5, and De.4:15-19…GOD IS NOT GOING TO BE MOCKED BY THE IDOLS OF THE NATIONS, OR BY ANYTHING.