During my recent trip to Durban, a fellow traveler asked me where I was from. You know, the usual conversation when you meet a stranger on the road. Here's how the conversation went:
Him: So where are you from?
Me: Oh, I'm from the States.
Him: Oh wow. What's happening over there right now?
Me: What do you mean?
Him: You guys have that crazy guy running for President.
Me: Yeah, I don't like to talk about it because it gets me fired up.
Him: And all of those police shootings...
Me: Yeah, it's sad and unnecessary.
Him: Do you think tourists will continue wanting to visit the U.S. with all these things happening?
Me: You know, I'm not sure. But that's a great question...
With the latest police-involved killing of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma over the weekend and just yesterday, the killing of unarmed black man Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, I can't help but to be reminded of this conversation. People all over the world think of the United States as the world's greatest country. We have a top notch job market, economy, education systems, and with a little hard work and perseverance, anyone can achieve the ultimate goal: The American Dream. Right? Wrong.
America's own citizens - black men and women - are being gunned down by the very people sworn to protect them, all because they are perceived as threatening due to the color of their skin. In 2016. Terence Crutcher's car was broken down on the side of the road. Keith Lamont Scott was sitting in his car reading a book and waiting for his children. But neither of them were able to make it home to their families for doing things that people do every day. Why?
America, don't get me started on the systematic and systemic ways that black people are held down, including employment, housing discrimination, voting laws, and mass incarceration. And when a celebrity uses his platform to take a stand (Hey, Colin Kaepernick!), he receives death threats and is seen as divisive and unpatriotic for silently protesting these injustices. He refuses to stand during a National Anthem, written by a former slave owner, that says;
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.
Some Americans are outraged that he has the audacity to not salute the American flag while this song is being played. They think he doesn't support our troops. What those Americans don't understand is that frankly, not saluting the flag or standing for the Star Spangled Banner does not equal non-support of our military. Colin has just as much a right to the flag and the Star Spangled Banner as anyone who serves in the military. He loves his country just as much as service men and women. Colin is not disrespecting the flag, nor does he hate this country. He is simply exercising his American right to protest for that in which he believes. You know, because this is the land of the free and home of the brave. He believes that all Americans - no matter the race - should be treated equally and fairly. The issue seems simple enough, right? Apparently not.
What's sad about the Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott tragedies is that I heard about them and was almost numb. More killings. More hashtags. I'm exhausted. It's almost becoming commonplace for another black person to be gunned down by rogue police officers. If my car breaks down or I have a broken taillight, or any number of asinine reasons, I could be next. And that's just a fact.
I've written in the past about how I'm proud to be American. And that remains true. But I'm embarrassed right now. I'm embarrassed that a bigot and racist could become the next President of the United States. I'm embarrassed that other countries feel the need to issue travel warnings to their citizens about coming to the United States because they could potentially be shot by police if they aren't too careful. I'm embarrassed that our law enforcement are the ones committing senseless acts of violence when they are supposed to be the ones protecting us. I'm simply embarrassed. And it hurts. It hurts that I'm in an abusive relationship with you, America. I love you, but you don't seem to love me, or people who look like me, back.
What's worse is that as I look at my Facebook feed, the only people I see speaking out against police brutality are my black friends. But we can't fight this fight on our own. Where are our allies? Where are those same people outraged by Colin Kaepernick's protest? The same people who have so much respect for the National Anthem?
Their silence is deafening.
An exhausted, outraged, and tearful black American woman
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. - Martin Luther King Jr.