This weekend, we celebrate America’s independence amid a pandemic and unprecedented civil unrest.
A divisive presidential election is on the horizon, and there have been protests around the nation against police brutality and for Black lives.
Black Americans were called to boycott Independence Day.
The word “patriot” and its significance to what it means to be an American comes into question.
Who is and who is not a patriot is especially relevant as we reevaluate what it means to be an American.
I was born and bred in America, yet I never saw myself as a patriot. As a Black American woman, I often feel like the annoying family member who came to visit for the weekend but never left.
I have a place to lay my head, collect my mail, but have never felt a sense of true belonging because the images of what it is to be an American do not reflect, "my country tis of thee."
I googled images of the word “patriot” and could not find one image of a patriot who resembled me or anyone who looked like me.
There were no photos of my grandfather, a World War ll veteran, or my father, a Vietnam veteran who grew tired of fighting war memories and took his life in our driveway late one winter’s night.
Were they patriots?
No image resembling my grandmother, who during World War ll worked for 16-20 hours a day helping to manufacture soup for America’s soldiers.
Was she a patriot?
I could not find one image depicting the freedom fighters of the Civil Rights era either.
Surely, they must have been patriots?
Merriam Webster defines patriot as “a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors.”
That definition embodies all the characteristics of the people I love and who helped shape my understanding and love for America, despite her flaws.
My family and friends fit the description of a patriot. Countless Black people have been patriots, despite pain rooted in the dark and dirty institution of slavery.
I participate in peaceful protest and organize against a list of oppressive public policies that includes qualified immunity, the unjust killing of black people, failing public education, gentrified economies, food deserts and abandoned neighborhoods.
I claim the term patriot because it belongs to every person who still believes that our nation is still the sweet land of liberty.
I wave my flag for America and celebrate her with all her imperfections.
My Black experience is as American as baseball and apple pie.
I am a patriot.
I define the word.