“In this country, American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.” – Toni Morrison
As kneejerk America derides San Francisco 49er QB Colin Kaepernick, we should remember that he teaches a valuable lesson for Labor Day: Many black people view the world differently than white people.
For an Italian-American kid who grew up on the ethnic side of Fresno, Calif., that sure took a long time for me to realize.
Kaepernick is highly regarded in this community and not just for his legendary tenure in UNR football. He was involved in local issues and has returned several times to speak of his faith at a local church. The young man is a person of principle.
The current dustup is emblematic of Bill Maher’s line “Americans don’t do nuance.”
If they did, they might remember that the pledge of allegiance was written as advertising copy by a guy who sold flags. The national anthem is a rewrite of the old British drinking song “Anacreon in Heaven.”
Give enough time for short attention span America to forget and the flag and the anthem become establishment religious symbols. Kaepernick, a high priest of our national religion, the NFL, has thus committed heresy if not treason, both burning offenses in the minds of the narrow.
When gymnast Gabby Douglas did not place her hand over her heart at a Rio Olympics ceremony, she was trashed and apologized. Two white shotputters left their hands at their sides and nobody said nothing.
Morgan State University professor Jason Johnson terms the Star Spangled Banner racist.
“No one remembers that (Francis Scott Key) wrote a full third stanza decrying the former slaves who were now working for the British,” Johnson writes. Key detested “runaway slaves who joined with the British Royal Army in exchange for their freedom.”
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
“In other words, Key was saying that the blood of all the former slaves and ‘hirelings’ on the battlefield will wash away the pollution of the British invaders….’The Star-Spangled Banner’ is as much a patriotic song as it is a diss track to black people who had the audacity to fight for their freedom. Perhaps that’s why it took almost 100 years for the song to become the national anthem,” Johnson says.
Lighten up, folks, or our mutual future will grow darker.
SAM LUMPE, 1940-2016. The César Chávez Nevada Labor Hall of Famer and retired member of Sparks Sheet Metal Workers Local 26/AFL-CIO, passed away on Aug. 24. Full remembrance at NevadaLabor.com/ At his request, no “stuffy memorial service” will be held. That’s my man, Silent Sam.
Be well. Raise hell. / Esté bien. Haga infierno.
Andrew Barbano is a 47-year Nevadan, editor of NevadaLabor.com and first vice-president of the Reno-Sparks NAACP.
As always, his comments are strictly his own. E-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org> Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.