Lately I’ve been seeing a surge of memes whining about protesters in Baltimore and elsewhere trampling on and/or burning the American flag. People seem to be really angry, and are even making general threats of violence against anyone who they come across mistreating the flag. It’s the typical mindless nationalist jingoism and it’s not worth repeating.
My suggestion to those people who are upset is to imagine that anger coming from a completely different perspective. Imagine, for a moment, that you’re a Black American. Now, as a Black American, what does that flag represent for you?
For almost a century that flag, an alleged symbol of ‘freedom,’ waved high while Black people were violated by the extreme form of oppression known as slavery. Once slavery was abolished, they were still subjugated and oppressed by unjust laws and segregation. Even once segregation was abolished, and civil rights protections were passed on both state and federal levels, the system of oppression lingered on. It still exists today. Only a fool would deny that there is widespread institutional racism in the United States that works to marginalize Black communities.
So, while the American flag may represent some vague concept of ‘freedom’ for some, it is a very real symbol of oppression for Black Americans, and they are completely justified in their symbolic statement of protest. Anyone who can’t understand their anger is contributing to the problem. Until they understand that, they should get used to seeing the flag they love so dearly desecrated and destroyed by people for whom it is not a symbol of freedom, but of violence and oppression.