An Inclusive Litany


Kathy Wilson, columnist for the Cincinnati City Beat, provides commentary on NPR's "All Things Considered," December 17, 2001:
I have never been patriotic. I have never thought about not being patriotic. As an American, I enjoy my rights just like the next American. As a negro, I enjoy my rights just like the next negro. About blind patriotism, I am judgemental, critical, cynical, distrustful, and paranoid, and especially now.

Just as surely as some Americans profile brown people with wrapped heads, long beards, and alphabet-soup last names, we are now profiling one another. Flag owners and the flagless alike are eyeballing each other as if to say: "How big is yours?" Where is it and why isn't your house red, white and blue? Yeah, Old Glory has taken on a new mutated symbology.

Everybody's profiling. And it's paranoia at white noise levels born from our mistrust of each other based on external assumptions. Flags in every shape, incarnation, derivation and size are everywhere. Flags are to patriotic profiling what SUVs are to class status: the bigger, the better.

If you don't have a flag and you don't regularly and publicly display it, then, well, something's wrong with you. That means something's wrong with me....

I know there exist true-blue blue-black negroes. I see them waving, wearing and holding Old Glory just like their white counterparts. And they're every kind of negro, from war vets and the workaday blunt-smoking grunts to the white-collar business class black Ken and Barbie, all the way up to the ultra-successful faux Huxtables. They're rockin' the flag.

Yet just as many negroes aren't piling onto the red, white, and blue-stained bandwagon. We're waiting instead for the bus that will take us to an America where affirmative action isn't a dirty word, where crosses signify the crucifixion of Jesus and not racial hatred, and where Confederate flags aren't allowed to fly anywhere. As for me and mine, we're still waiting for our forty acres and a mule.

I have been repeatedly chastized for not busting a move to get a flag since September 11. I sense... no, I know there are other negroes who feel like me because we talk about it in hushed tones....

[Ed.: The next day, the program ran another piece of commentary with the following on-line synopsis: "Commentator Guillermo Gomez Peña has had a series of nasty incidents at airports since Sept. 11. Besides looking Arab, his intense look as a performance artist makes him a candidate for profiling."]

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