I should have thought through how to prevent those three grown racist white men from physically attacking me and beating me into a hospital stay when I was 14. The fact I couldn't think of a way to do that demonstrates the bad decision making that has plagued my life. I clearly have only myself to blame for the psychological and physical damage I sustained that day.
On that note, I sat down some time ago and tried to document every time I have been pulled over by the police. I got my driver's license in 1979, so from 1979 through 2017 - 38 years - I counted 28 times being pulled over. I have to be fair and subtract 10 of those where I know I was speeding - bad decisions. So, that leaves another 18 times where I was pulled over without any driving violation. You know, that's the "where are you going? Where are you coming from? What's your business? Are you on parole? Do you have weapons? Those stops. Like the time I was 17 in Fresno, living with my mother's sister who lives in the white part of town. When several cops pulled me violently out of my car at gunpoint and held me on the ground for 40 minutes without ever even telling me why when they finally let me go. Word of the incident reached my aunt and she wanted to know what I had done wrong? Those times. Why couldn't I have figured out how to be somewhere else so that none of those 18 times would have ever happened?
And why couldn't I have figured out how to do better than getting a Bachelor's Degree at less than 30 days after turning 21? Certainly, I could have figured out how to make any of those interviews I conducted turn into employment offers so that I wouldn't have had to settle for a federal $3.35 an hour job that summer. The fact I had to work in a Youth Authority facility and help supervise a white inmate my age, who murdered his mother, yet had a day time job making $5.00 per hour - that's a $1.65 an hour better than me and my Bachelor's Degree - that's probably my bad as well. So, the fact I had to hear that mommy killer call me the n word all summer while bragging about being white and making more money than me, with all my bad decisions, I definitely deserved that.
Knowing all of this helped me realize that the same types of terrible things that I regularly observed my people experiencing must also be a reflection of their equally as bad decision making. The fact I visited Ghana and saw my people living in poverty, despite every Hershey and/or Nestle bar - or any other chocolate - you eat more than likely comes from Ghana produced cocoa, I knew that was because my people just didn't figure out the right way to make decisions about their lives. The same must be true for those people mining for bauxite in Guinea. And certainly the coltan miners in the Congo, gold and uranium in Zimbabwe, and the Nigeria oil workers. All poor countries. All the result of bad decision making on our part. Obama even said that last year, so it must be true.
Mike Brown walked in that street that day in 2014. Eric Garner chose to stop breathing which usually results in a bad decision conclusion. Sandra Bland decided to go to jail for no reason and Walter Scott must have requested to be shot in the back. Philando Castillo was misdirected enough to get a conceal and carry permit and then tell the police he had it and the weapon that accompanies it.
All these bad decisions we make that we insist on blaming on institutional racism. On capitalism. Not true. And the boss has even recruited more than enough yes people who look like us like Sheriff Clark, Shaquelle O'Neal, and Ray Lewis, to remind us that all of this is our fault. Its about the decisions we make, not racism. All these results have absolutely nothing to do with race. Nothing at all.
So I confess to my utter and inexcusable behavior of not standing for the U.S. national anthem for quite some time. In fact, I'm pretty sure I didn't get the idea from Colin Kaepernick because I was sitting in 1979 and I've been sitting since then. And, I mean sitting, not kneeling. I mean keeping my cap on. I mean burying my head in my arms so that I can use the time that the song is playing to block it out of my mind and focus instead on all my people who suffer as we do because of our bad decision making.
And here's news for you. As it relates to that national anthem and that flag, I'm going to continue to make those same decisions regarding how I interact with those experiences. Its too late to stop now. I've raised a 30 year old daughter who has never stood. She probably wouldn't even know how. And, I've taught literally scores of our youth not to respect any of that because I believe in providing an equal level of respect to entities that they supply to me. So, last month, when my daughter got her Master's Degree in Public Health, they played the national anthem and I sat through it in my long African robe. And, I did that in Memphis, Tennessee, a hotbed for reactionary patriotism. So, I waited for someone to tell me to stand up. It's happened before, a couple of times, and when it did, I told those people to mind their own damn business and/or make me stand. Although many people stared at me that day, no one said anything. Its actually been a while since anyone has. Maybe its the energy I give off? I don't know. You see, actually, the true confession here is that I don't really believe I've made bad decisions. At least not anymore than anyone else. And, I don't believe oppression results primarily from bad decisions. i believe that when oppression is systemic, people will most often make bad decisions because that's the miss-education oppression provides. But, bad decisions in this environment aren't the cause of the oppression, they are only the manifestation of it.
No, I don't believe I've made many bad decisions at all and I don't believe that about my people or any oppressed people either. I believe that this system is rotten to its core. So, I actually believe that in having to interact with that dysfunction every day, oppressed people make the best decisions we possibly can most of the time. And often, regardless of whatever decisions we make, things will not turn out well for us. That's how systemic oppression works. And, I believe that people who don't understand that generally have about as much actual knowledge of oppression as I have about performing open heart surgery e.g. slim to none. The difference is that everyone knows i have no open heart surgery experience. No one is going to be knocking on my door asking me to perform open heart surgery because to do so would be suicide. It would be foolish. Well, its equally as foolish to believe that anyone who has no actual knowledge e.g. comprehensive study, activist experience, and analysis of systemic oppression, has an opinion about it that's worth more than a fart.
Since no logical person could dispute that last sentence, why are so many people acting today like white people (and/or some brown people too), who have no real knowledge of oppression have anything to say about it that we should listen to? Those opinions are really about as worthless as mine on giving birth. Zero! But, that doesn't even make a dent does it? I know Sekou Ture was correct when he said "based solely on what comes out of our mouths, we are all equal", but that doesn't matter either does it? The only thing that really matters in this society is protecting the interests of the super rich capitalist class. And, the most sure fire way to ensure that happens is for them to use mostly white people and tell them the reason for their problem is us while the reasons for our problems are also us. So, instead of posing the serious challenge to the ruling class that will actually result in wins for white people, the cowardly white masses instead continue to take the same nasty bait 500 years later and assume their given role of thinking their primary job is keeping us in line (with the interests of the master).
So, yeah. I don't stand. I don't respect anything that doesn't respect me and your country has never respected me. Everything we have here we have had to fight for. Everything we have in Africa we've had to fight for. Nothing has been given to us. We are the people who have had to fight to go to the school we want. Live in the neighborhood we can afford. And do anything anyone else we can do. We are the people who have been killed for standing up for ourselves and the country not only never did anything to prevent that, it often was the reason for our deaths. And, our struggles to do that have opened up opportunities for people who just immigrated here last week. So, we owe this country absolutely nothing and after 500 years of killing us, enslaving us, incarcerating us, blaming us for every problem, including the ones we're experiencing, I ain't standing and I ain't honoring your flag. Its toilet paper or material for a fire to me. Nothing more.
What the professional athletes are doing is not new. They are helping you understand a phenomenon that has been dominant within the African communities here for hundreds of years. Frederick Douglass talked about not respecting your anthem in the 1700s. Even Jackie Robinson, who's politics were questionable at best, understood he shouldn't be standing for it. Its nothing new. The athletes are just exposing the world to it. And to see that warms my heart. So, don't worry about telling us to go back to Africa. On a personal level, I love Africa. Going there is great for me, but it doesn't solve the problem. Once we figure out how to make the right decisions about organizing to get our resources back, now that's a different situation. When that happens the scales tip dramatically. No more wealth just in the Western world. We'll see who wants to stay and leave then, but regardless, no one here has authority or credibility to have the conversation about going anywhere with us. This is Indigenous people's land and our efforts are designed to help them gain strength so that the children of the settlers will one day have to petition them for citizenship.
So, please miss us with that patriotism garbage. We are really thinking about your feelings about as much as you think about ours.