In 2016 the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization founded and currently directed by renowned lawyer, social activist and humanitarian, Bryan Stevenson, produced it’s findings on “Lynching in America”.
Amidst these findings, which included deep fact finding and thorough research from all across the southern states of America, it was discovered that between the years of 1877-1950 (73 years) over four thousand and seventy-five lynchings were committed, all the victims, of course, were black.
An even more disturbing trend revealed through the research concluded that:
“No one was more at risk of experiencing violence and targeted racial terror than black veterans”
Let that sink in for a minute…
Now, fast forward to Wednesday, when future Hall of Fame New Orleans Saints’ QB, Drew Brees, was asked about the recent protests and social unrest, due to the unlawful detainment of George Floyd, which lead to his death while in custody of four Minneapolis police officers.
“…I think about my two grandfathers, both who served in World War II, and risked their lives to protect this country and to try and make this country and the world a better place…I think about all that’s been sacrificed”
I admit, as I heard the interview initially, with the words STILL ringing in my ears, I became annoyed and it was my knowledge of American history, and more notably, the image buried in my mind of black men, some of whom likely served alongside Drew Brees’ grandfathers in battle. Black men who should have returned to America as heroes, returned only to be treated infinitely less than human by being hung, beaten, degraded, dragged by their ankles, tortured…
…THESE BLACK MEN NEVER GOT TO BECOME GRANDFATHERS, DREW! THEY WERE LYNCHED UPON RETURNING TO THE SAME COUNTRY THEY RISKED THEIR LIVES TO PROTECT!
Not too many high school and college World War II courses cover the lynching of black veterans, and herein lies a monumental problem, the miseducation of so many Americans.
This gross miseducation has led to a lack of relevant understanding when it comes to patriotism, equity and the “who and what” that the symbols of the flag and/or national anthem are intended to stand for.
This is the same miseducation Drew has fallen victim to. Which, at its best is disappointing and is destructive, deeply disturbing at it’s worst.
I harbor no ill will towards Drew Brees, or anyone who carries these delusions of patriotism rooted in ignorance…
My anger lies in the broad lack of knowledge, understanding, acceptance and atonement for America’s egregious history, especially in regards to the insurmountable black contribution to the building of this country’s foundation and the many idols thought to be exclusively reserved for white privilege and white nationalism…
The echoes of lynched, burned, tortured, murdered black veterans, thousands of them, will never be silenced. Even as I type these words, I am reminded of an image that my mother shared with me recently and a quote I’m familiar with from long ago.
The image, featured below, represents 3 generations of my family members. All black men. All men who sacrificed, or are currently sacrificing, men who gave of themselves for the same flag and anthem that Colin Kaepernick chose to kneel for, a kneel that was and always will be intended to be aimed at racial inequalities and social injustices.
I juxtapose the above image with a quote from Mississippi Senator James Vardaman in 1917, who warned that the return of black veterans to the South would
“inevitably lead to disaster.” Once you “impress the negro with the fact that he is defending the flag…” and “inflate his untutored soul with military airs…” Vardaman cautioned that it was a short step until “his political rights must be respected”.
This is why we kneel, Drew. This is why we protest.
Our rights will be protected, even at the expense of ceremony to a flag with BOTH our ancestors blood splattered on it.