There has always been something unsavory about politics. As an attorney, activist, military officer, and all around problem solver, I am often asked whether I would consider going into politics. I always respond negatively because there are too many aspects of politics that I find distasteful and have no interest in being involved with. The fundraising. The “trading” votes. The constant worrying about poll numbers instead of simply doing what is right. Paying special attention to constituents who are big donors and not as much to others with less capital. The sense of sizing people up not simply as individuals or genuine interest, but with an assessment of “what can you do for me?” I am not interested in power for power’s sake, and my objectives lean more towards national initiatives as opposed to local ones. Add to this the “win at all costs” strategy that appears to be part and parcel to politics, and what emerges is a toxic environment and state of existence that cannot be overcome by whatever benefits inure to politicians. Hence, it was of no surprise when I came across a story noting that Republican politicians are using the national anthem protests against racism as a political tool.
That politicians would exploit and disparage the efforts by Black people, to include professional, collegiate, and high school athletes, and everyday citizens, to peacefully challenge racism, is particularly inappropriate and crass. While the actions taken by these politicians may be partially performative, running clips of players engaged in national anthem protests against racism sends a chilling message to the members of the county, city, or state whom would also be represented should this individual prevail in an election. There are repeated calls for politicians to “focus on the issues,” instead of getting into the gutter or conducting themselves like children. Actions such as those by Congresswoman Diane Black who published a piece announcing that she was returning her Tennessee Titans season tickets are embarrassingly desperate and reflect a profound disrespect for the values and freedoms enshrined in the constitution that are often championed by conservatives. But apparently only to the degree these freedoms benefit them or are not otherwise extended to the Black citizens in this country.
But what this also reflects is just how powerful these protests are. Powerful in their simplicity and graciousness. Powerful in that they expose the hypocrisy of America given that the rights and freedoms symbolized by the national anthem and flag are not now nor have they ever been extended to Black citizens of this country. Powerful in that they directly challenge this country’s original sin, racism. Arguments regarding alleged disrespect to veterans and the flag are clear deflections designed to obscure the heart piercing reality that America both in its current state and since its inception has been an absolute fraud. While its ideals and principles would indeed make it exceptional if upheld and supported, the fact that its entire history consists of sustained systemic racism against Blacks prevents it from realizing its true potential.
Republican politicians using the protests as a point to denigrate those who protest during the national anthem is a continuation of this country’s despicable transgressions against its Black citizenry.