For people of color, the past three and one-half years of slogging through Donald Trump’s America have brought many new realizations about some age-old problems.
Racism and bigotry have existed since the first Africans set foot in English speaking North America 400 years ago. During our long, agonizing trek through the pages of U.S. history, we have suffered enslavement, lynching, Jim Crow laws, red lining, school segregation and employment discrimination, just to name a few of the ways in which our humanity has been violated.
Through the centuries, very few African Americans did not suffer from the poisonous vapors arising from the culture of white supremacy. So, the assaults by Donald Trump are nothing new to those of us Americans with a darker hue. His ignorant vitriol only chalks up another day under the star-spangled banner.
But while we see Trump as another edition of a 400-year-old daily rerun, his America has taught many of us something we had not learned before – something so deeply embedded in the marrow of white America’s bones that it took the socio-political CT scan of a Trump presidency to reveal it.
We have known all along that the Confederate flag-waving bigots were acting out their hatred for people of color, despite their protestations that they were only honoring their cultural heritage. We were never fooled into thinking that the racial covenants imposed by state and federal governments had nothing to do with property values and everything to do with building white economic wealth from a foundation of Black economic deprivation.
When Black soldiers went off to sacrifice their bodies and lives to fight foreign wars for Uncle Sam, knowing full well they would return to a homeland that cursed them, there was seldom any recognition of their selflessness. In fact, they were despised even more for their heroism.
Yet, time and time again, through the butchery of Black bodies, the countless murders of unarmed Black men and women by police and the rape of Black freedoms by the American judicial system, so many white Americans have justified their crimes as acts of patriotism.
Holding the treasonous flag of the Confederacy in one hand, and the American flag in the other, white supremacists have the unmitigated gall to self-aggrandize themselves as patriots.
If patriotism is the love of one’s homeland and its citizens, white supremacists cannot lay claim to that quality. It is impossible to love your country while hating a multitude of its citizens. A country is not merely geographical boundaries and topographical registers. A country is a community of people – all the people. And this is a truth that white supremacists have never embraced. They would rather sing of “purple mountain majesties” and “amber waves of grain” than honor the First Nations who were stewards of this lands for millennia before Europeans arrived, or the sons and daughters of Africa upon whose bloodied backs the wealth of America was built.
White supremacists have cloaked the venom of their race hatred in the red, white and blue in order to hide its true nature, because in the minds of white supremacists, America is only for whites.
When we consider the words of the preamble to the U.S. Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence [sic], promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” – we have to ask ourselves, justice and domestic tranquility for whom when unarmed people of color are gunned down and murdered by police officers. We must ask ourselves, whose general welfare is being promoted when we have federal and state legislatures bent on disenfranchising people of color. Have the blessings of liberty been secured for people of color who have been lynched, oppressed, left defenseless by state and federal governments when attacked by racists mobs and denied any modicum of dignity and equality by flag waving racists who call themselves patriots?
It is time to name this evil for what it is. It is not American patriotism when flag waving bigots demand respect for the symbolic images of this country. It is white nationalism fueled by the racial bigotry of those who believe that it is only they who deserve any benefits that America has to offer.
Oscar H. Blayton is a former Marine Corps combat pilot and human rights activist who practices law in Virginia.