If You’re An American, And You Don’t Give A Damn About Black Americans, Your “Patriotism” Is Bullshit » VSB

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If You’re An American, And You Don’t Give A Damn About Black Americans, Your “Patriotism” Is Bullshit



For the past week, the prevailing national conversations spring boarded by Colin Kaepernick’s protest have primarily dealt with the level of patriotism possessed by Kaepernick and others aligned with his beliefs about our country and supportive of his means of protest. Some of this conversation has existed in the form of nuanced acknowledgements of the very real and relevant sources for Kaepernick’s (and other’s) ambivalence.  And, of course, some of this conversation has been predictably terrible; where blind and mindless loyalty to both our country and the symbols representing it — even if the country hasn’t been particularly loyal to us — seems to be the expectation.

Either way, the spotlight is shining on us and our complex relationship(s) to the ideal of patriotism. And the spotlight is shining in the wrong direction.

Black Americans are Americans. Living and breathing citizens of this country; many of whom can trace our lineages here back hundreds of years. Maybe our (collective) feelings about America are complex and perhaps our patriotism can be doubted at times (and for good reason). But one thing is simple: We are American citizens. This is an inextricable truth. A truth that remains true despite a history (and present) of that citizenship being doubted, questioned, and even outright dismissed.

But we are Americans. And for the Black American, the 300 million other American citizens are our countrymen. Which is why we need to start doubting the patriotic bonafides of those doubting ours.

Patriotism isn’t just an infatuation with and fanaticism for symbols and abstractions. It’s a steadfastness in making sure the country’s professed ideals aren’t just honored and protected, but extended to each of its citizens. It’s not standing for the flag, it’s fighting for what the flag is supposed to stand for. It’s wanting to keep your countrymen — all of them — safe.

Maybe Colin Kaepernick isn’t particularly patriotic. But if you can’t bother to be concerned about the centuries-long and impregnable mistreatment of millions of your fellow Americans, neither are you.

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • Other_guy13

    I have been confused by the outrage toward him since this whole thing started. If you want to make america great again…and someone says it’s in fact not great….you are angry for agreeing with you? Or is it just you want it great for your fellow wypo and POC’s can fall back and let y’all take back over….QTNA

    • Jennifer

      “Or is it just you want it great for your fellow wypo and POC’s can fall back and let y’all take back over….QTNA”

      Already answered. It’s this one. They won’t admit it.

    • Hugh Akston

      Why is it confusing though? Really asking

      • Other_guy13

        Maybe confused isn’t the best word…perplexed I suppose

        • Hugh Akston


    • Kas

      I think it’s even more sinister than just wanting it to great for wypipo. They also want POC to say and believe that it is great for us just as it is (i.e., they don’t want to have to feel guilty about winning a crooked game).

      • Nik White

        No they want us to stay so that they say, “ya’ll built it but we made it great”.

        I was late to this party cuz I was watching the #365BlackAwards with my mama. Did anybody else see it?

    • Mary Burrell

      That’s why all this racism/nationalism makes no sense. They are probably the same ones voting for Trump and that makes no sense either.

  • dadumdee

    Unrelated, but I didn’t know that Kaepernick is a Kappa.

    • miss t-lee

      Very much so.

      • NonyaB

        One of y’all needs to do a post on Black frats. What is a Kappa? Wetin be Divine? Why are they “Black Greek” orgs? Are Greek people in the US or Greece aware of them? How do Black frats differ from white ones? Any similarity in social ailments? Etc.

        All I know is Kappa is something you avoid (cross the road if you must) because Day-Moan tells me so. What little I know of frats in general is undesirable (non-inclusive, party/r*pe culture, etc) but Black ones may differ.

        • miss t-lee

          Oh honey, I’m the last person to ask about this.

          • NonyaB

            Okey-dokey, I’ma forward inquiries to @Damon and PanaMayne.

            • miss t-lee

              Yeah. I have friends that Greek, but I’m not. So any info I could give wouldn’t be very good.

    • Sigma_Since 93

      Divine 9 Orgs continuing to advance social issues!!! #blackgreekunity

    • QueenAnnaT

      #KappasForKaepernick need trending now!

    • Really? As much as Kappas stay talking about him you’d think he was their unofficial shield lol

    • Medium Meech

      He wears red to work everyday and frequently needs a cane. I’m not sure how anyone missed it.

  • All this makes me want to do, is defecate on the American flag and put it on YouTube to ruffle white folks’ feathers. They’re so extra for no reason at all. The flag, the pledge, the National Anthem, they’re all just symbols and nothing more.


  • Hugh Akston

    Uhh that’s about 90% white america I mean you heard the guy from Maine right? A state gov official declared that “people of color” I.e. Black folks are the enemy. What did white america do? Laugh it off

    And you think those people care about you? Or I?

    • I wish I’d known earlier that Maine girls were giving it up like that….

      • Kas

        All this time I was trying to get to Sweden and I could have just driven to Maine.

        • Val

          Look at y’all. Smh.

          • Kas

            Oh, hey Val. You know me and my weakness for the snow bunnies. I’m a work in progress.

        • NonyaB


      • lkeke35

        You better get in there before it gets crowded. Maine only has a population of about 1.1% black people, so that’s like what, 50 or 60 black guys, running around causing hella trouble according to LePage.

        • #SaveTheSnowBunnies2016

        • Negro Libre

          Maine is so white, that once you cross the border, vitiligo begins to kick in.

          • Hugh Akston

            went to Brooksville i don’t recall seeing a single black person


          • Mary Burrell

            That’s hyper white Maine like Vermont is snow white

            • Negro Libre

              It’s funny my dad made me apply to University of Vermont as a kid (he thought it would be a cheap school coming from Mass.), and I actually got in. Thank God, UMass Amherst came thru lol.

              • Mary Burrell

                Thank God for that

        • Mary Burrell

          Yeah Lepage says the black men in Maine are drug dealers and want to desecrate all the young white girls.

          • truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

            I heard of him too. He’s a disgrace.

            • Mary Burrell

              He’s repugnant

              • truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

                He is. I hope that the people of Maine vote him out in the future.

          • Betty’s Babygirl

            Lepage also said he was Donald Trump before there was a Donald Trump. Did you hear the recorded message he left for his opponent? I can respect his game because he lays all his cards on the table unlike others who only put their white robes and hoods on in private.

          • Mochasister

            Chile, please. Some of these white girls WANT to be desecrated by non white men. Some of THEM are the ones doing the desecrating. He obviously does not get out of the house.

          • Nik White

            If said white girls raise their hands and skirts/jeans/etc, is it still descration Lepage?

      • Sigma_Since 93

        Kyree knows…………It’s snowing so he’s going!

      • Cheech


      • kingpinenut

        They got no cakes

        • But they got pie…

          • kingpinenut


      • Gibbous

        Main is not as White as folk want to believe or portray. It is the number one state for Somali refugees. (My sister works with them). Without the refugees, Maine is losing population so fast that they would have lost their entire workforce and the economy.

    • Furious Styles

      The Nixon Administration beat him to it.

    • kingpinenut

      Bruh, I lived in Maine for 14 years…..

      • Hugh Akston

        Yo, how did you manage? Like really there are no black folks there..

        Was trying to go to a restaurant there with a buddy the receptionist looked at us and say the restaurant was full…when I pointed out that the restaurant was empty he then switched to “well they are reserved so the wait is about 5 hours” smh

  • The military pays big money to be associated with national sports. This is a hot button issue because we have effectively associated American Power with football. Who cares how much he “loves America” if he can hit a wide out in stride at 40 yards (he apparently can’t)? This is much ado about Mayo not making their monkeys dance and less about this so called protest.

    • Sigma_Since 93

      It went into over drive after 9-11.

      • Sigma_Since 93

        Pre 9-11

        Whitney Houston at Super Bowl during Desert Storm

        • Sigma_Since 93

          Post 9-11 Game

          • Negro Libre

            The slow march towards a United Fascist States of America; we’re one major terrorist attack from it becoming an absolute reality, regardless of who ends up being president.

            • Val

              You don’t think we’ve already reached that point?

              • Negro Libre

                Nah, I added the word “absolute” for a reason. As a guy who spent 2 years of his life living under a dictatorship, I can tell you when the ish hits the fan, especially in America, it’s gonna be just like that Denzel’s The Siege movie. I’ve always been convinced that’s that movie, more so than any other I’ve ever seen, is the future of America.

                • Val

                  I hear you but I really don’t think America’s fascism looks like the fascism of the past. Fascism here hides in plain sight. As we speak the NSA or one of another 1000 mostly unnamed agencies is reading this conversation. And every email you or I send or receive. Not to mention telephone calls.

                  And let’s not even mention what police and their role as Fascist police. Then add the prison industrial complex.

                  My point is if we are expecting fascism here to look like it does elsewhere then we are certainly not seeing what’s really going on.

                  Fascism in America looks just like America looks now. We’re all just too busy with the minutia of everyday life to see it or care. One day we’ll be forced to see it though.

                  • Negro Libre

                    I actually disagree with a lot of this.

                    I agree that when fascism comes it’s not going to look like it did in the past in Europe, but I don’t think what we have is anything but flirtations with fascism. Most of what we see today are just technological advances; around WWI and WWII things like the Patriot’s Act already existed – this is American Status Quo during war time. FDR was the first guy really to use J.Edgar Hoover and the FBI to blackmail his political opponents.

                    Fascism in this country, when it comes, is going to be approved by most people, including many black people. Your country has to be broken to it’s knees and utterly void of pride before you fully embrace fascism. America came close after 9/11, but by after a year, ish went back to normal. So at the very most we’re flirting with it.

                    When we go over the top, which I think is inevitable, it’s not going to resemble anything we’ve currently seen, because as a country, we’ve never gone overboard. Given our history, it’s gonna be way worse. When we get fascism it’s going to sound just like a combo of FDR and Reagan, non-ideological, because in essence Fascism appeals to the ideals of the people in the country, (Italians – Caesar; Germans – Teutonic Knights), which is why most of them sign up for it, when the time comes.

                    • Val

                      This is a different kind of fascism though, NL, because it’s mixed with oligarchy.

                      And to tackle your last paragraph, America has never gone overboard? Well, I think the genocide of Native Americans by American forces is certainly going overboard. The interment of Japanese Americans, once again, overboard. And finally, the enslavement of Black Americans which was federally enforced is certainly the most fascist you can possibly be and darn sure overboard.

                      Add to that regime changes that the U.S. has perpetrated that have caused genocide and war is certainly going overboard. And as I mentioned the way in which America uses it’s police and justice system.

                      Anyway, as I said, because oligarchy is in the mix America’s fascism just looks different. The oligarchs already control the government. Which means they control the laws. And the military.

                      The Republic part is all for show. I mean, despite the rhetoric on either side, whomever lives in the White House has to obey the oligarchs.

                      We are just an afterthought. An afterthought that is allowed to exist because our work is needed and our money is needed.

                      America’s fascism is hidden in plain sight, as I said, we just have to allow ourselves to see it, as difficult as that may be.

                    • Negro Libre

                      I think where you and I disagree on is the issue of pretense. You’re of the opinion that we already have fascism, we just are led to believe that it doesn’t exist. From what I’ve read about fascism and the many examples (esp. those outside of Germany), when fascism comes is when all pretense is gone.

                      That’s why I disagree with you here, I think things that can get way worse than what they currently are or ever have been.

                    • Janelle Doe

                      Thanks for raising examples of overboard both local and abroad. Sometimes the imperialism effects gets lost in the shuffle.

                  • It basically looks like the Jim Crow south.

                    • Negro Libre

                      Nah, Jim Crow South was a direct democracy, in the classic sense, like the one the Athenians had.

                • Trill Mickelson

                  Bro, The Siege always, always f*cked with me. I might’ve been like 11 when I saw it, and it bothered me. I’d watch it when it came on TV (I don’t know why), and it bothered me. Wasn’t until later I realized why: because I could see it happening.

                  • Negro Libre

                    The one thing I like about the movie, is that it shows you how everything is rationalized. I mean think about how crazy ish would if a terrorist drove a bomb into the NYPD and killed over 300 cops?! Even Al, would be marching, begging for martial law.

                    When no one knows what else to do, that’s when the fascist come in. That’s why one of the great ironies in the movie, is after the FBI dept gets bombed, they have Arianna Huffington arguing in the news for the military to come in and take over everything.

            • My brother-in-law said where sadly one bad incident away from becoming a Christian version of Iran when he got back from Afghanistan in 2005.

              • Val

                Man, the Christian Right has been trying to do this for the last 30 years.

          • Val

            Off-topic but I’m going to leave this for you. I think you might enjoy it.


  • A.G.

    I saw a comment on Twitter last night after Trump’s (scary) immigration speech. It basically asked the question, “Can you imagine how violent people will be when Trump loses?” This isn’t going away.

    • Hugh Akston

      What a lot may not think about (maybe we do??) is that those folks that want to be violent are our neighbors co workers just “regular” yt folks that you encounter daily

      • grownandsexy2

        I think about it all the time actually. Too much in fact. I trust no one at work. I’ve heard too many things when they weren’t aware I was listening.

    • RewindingtonMaximus

      We are honestly just one bad day away from living out The Purge.

      This country has been on the tipping point for a long time, not just in recent times. All people need is an excuse. That’s all they’ve ever wanted.

      • A.G.

        It’s like a volcano. Imagine if we weren’t black and didn’t have to care this much. Privilege is a beautiful thing.

        • RewindingtonMaximus

          Ignorance is bliss, and they are so rich with it.

        • Brooklyn_Bruin

          Muslims from their motherlands used to be a model minorities. Now?

          Indian dudes be like “I’m Hindu bro, chill!”

          Cubans be like “But I’m not Mexican!”

          We need solidarity to stand against those that would do all of us and any of us harm.

          We can have a big tent as far as I’m concerned

      • Mary Burrell

        I have said that in previous post. There is a reason The Purge franchise exist.

        • RewindingtonMaximus

          Mmmhmm…to introduce us to the future.

  • RewindingtonMaximus
    • Never thought I’d say this but those are some trill azz socks.

      • RewindingtonMaximus

        I will buy some now.

    • Didn’t he rock those socks pre sit-in?

      • RewindingtonMaximus

        Yup, and no one paid attention.

        Post sit in..and it’s news worthy.

        • Now he’s gonna have them mad at his feet :(

          • RewindingtonMaximus

            They mad at the grass he’s standing on like “how dare that grass just hold him up”

            Next they will be mad at gravity for not being patriotic enough to crush him or let him float away.

        • Mary Burrell

          I was watching TMZ and they talked about Colin’s socks. I guess that’s something else for them to be angry about.

  • RewindingtonMaximus

    Also…this will always be unfair.


    I’m all for repping my country but my country don’t wanna rep me unless I’m singing, dancing, acting, playing ball, or sitting in the corner quiet in the fetal position.

    • Freedom of Speech?
      How un-patriotic .

      • RewindingtonMaximus

        Freedom of Particular Favored By A Specific Group of People Under a Specific Guideline for Specific Reasons Under a Specific Timeline Speech…that’s what you meant right?

  • always right

    i just wish that people would stop acting like patriotism isn’t just an idea, a thing. no one will die if everyone stopped having patriotism. patriotism has never kept anyone alive, nor has it killed anyone. patriotism didn’t end slavery or give everyone in america freedom or equality. patriotism is just a human made construct. for those reasons, i really don’t care if one is patriotic or no…doesn’t really make a difference. on the other hand, people are real. people are being murdered in the streets by cops. people aren’t expendable. people weren’t just constructed as a means for a group of people to fill unified. patriotism shouldn’t even be a part of the kaepernick discussion, he’s not protesting an idea. he’s protesting about people’s lives and the right to keep living.

    • KNeale

      well it actually has killed people. Patriotism can be a little dangerous. Not just in countries waging war to maintain supremacy of a “nation” but also from ignorant people killing other people in the name fo patriotism. Patriotism got lots of people killed/ abused post 9/11 and lots of people killed/abused post abolishment of slavery. And its quite stupid if you really think about it. Its competitive (and racist) in nature. “My home country is the greatest country, my people are the greatest people.” Is all just playing into false ownership of land by imperialist and false sense of superior identity. All nations are actually great with great people, no matter what type of poltiical or social ills they are plagued with. Because trust me we aint free from disease over here and never have been. But also, this earth is magnificent. This land is marvelous and all the people that came from it (could) be amazing.

      • always right

        but it’s still an idea. an idea can’t kill people. people with bad ideas and false loyalty kill people. rather they call it patriotism, racism, or even being in a gang those are all ideas. all i’m saying is that people putting an idea before actual people is nonsense. patriotism shouldn’t even play a role in the conversation about groups of people being gunned down by law enforcement. one has nothing to do with the other. when people allow the conversation to veer towards who is patriotic or not, the root issue is being lost and neglected.

  • RaeNBow

    *reads title* —> *co-signs and jumps right in the comments*

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