Anti-Racism 101

31 Patriotism vs Nationalism


“Kaepernick has been criticized for his lack of patriotism. The accusation is nothing new. Black folks have been viewed suspiciously throughout American history because of a willingness to be critical of the nation even as they love and embrace it. How many of you who claim that Kaepernick is unpatriotic realize that many Black men put on an American uniform and fought overseas, only to return home to be spurned and denied the rights for which they fought? How many of you realize that Black soldiers who had fought valiantly for American liberties sometimes returned home to die on the lynching tree because racist whites resented them for wearing the uniform or hoisting the American flag? How many of you know that in 1976, the year of the Bicentennial, during a Boston City Hall demonstration against court-ordered busing, a white student protester turned an American flag, tied to a pole, into a weapon to viciously attack Ted Landsmark, a black lawyer?……

Black folk have, throughout history, displayed their patriotism by criticizing the nation for its shortcomings. And they, in turn, have been roundly criticized. The great abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who fled from slavery, offered a famous oration on the meaning of Independence Day, asking, ‘what to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer a day that reveals to him, more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.’….

What some of you are missing is that Kaepernick is the best kind of American there is: one willing to criticize his country precisely because he loves it so much. James Baldwin said it best when he wrote, ‘I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.’ Both Baldwin and Kaepernick have offended you so greatly because they insisted on separating whiteness from American identity. The two are neither synonymous nor exhaustive; they neither signify all that America means, nor can they possibly radiate the full brightness of her promise.”…

“Nationalism is the uncritical celebration of one’s nation regardless of its moral or political virtue. It is summarized in the saying,’ my country right or wrong.’ Lump it or leave it. Nationalism is a harmful belief that can lead a country down a dangerous spiral of arrogance, or off a precipice of political narcissism.…

Patriotism is a bigger, more uplifting virtue. Patriotism is the belief in the best values of one’s country, and the pursuit of the best means to realize those values. If the nation strays, then it must be corrected. The patriot is the person who, spotting the need for change, says so clearly and loudly, without hate or rancor.”

“… Criticizing police brutality is said to be hating law enforcement. Sitting during the national anthem is said to be hating America. This sophomoric approach will remain a roadblock to genuine racial engagement until it is replaced by a deeper, more humane, more sophisticated understanding of the issue of race.”

“Social service at times obscures the need for justice by confusing compassion with change. Martin Luther King, Jr., said that charity is a poor substitute for justice.”

“When I used to appear on Fox News pretty regularly with Bill O Reilly, I begged him to say on air to his sizable audience that even though he disagreed with me, they shouldn’t send me hate mail and call me ‘nigger.’ He never made that plea. His silence reinforced the racial social contract forged by angry bitterness.”

–Michael Eric Dyson

Touching, respectful video explanation of why some athletes take a knee during the national anthem: