“O say does that star-bangled banner yet wave, over land of the free and the home of the brave?”

No doubt, when those words ring out over the land this fourth of July – from sea to shining sea – they will swell some with pride, and fill others with tears of despair.

Arguments about monuments, statues, flags, and other “patriotic” symbols, while watching the disturbing rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths, have distracted us from what is really at the core of the racial tensions in these United States.

First, the states are far from “united,” and since we have had a televised front-row seat to see the institutions of our democratic republic being gradually chipped away at; being tested every four years, with its edges periodically challenged for representation in the US Congress, the state houses, and in every local election, our plight and our mandate has become clearer.

Can somebody say “Statehood for D.C.?”

And yes, the nightly broadcast of street protests around the world against police injustice have fed us just enough good “news” about progress to keep the angry masses somewhat mollified.

But make no mistake, we are poised for a deep, revolutionary change – in all our systems, amidst cries to tear it all down!

A friend of mine asked where I would draw the line about the display of historic patriotic symbols; about how far would I go. Far!

For instance, I believe that there is no need to name anything that public tax dollars pay for: schools, government buildings, public universities, money, etc., because by naming, the risk is that some group will always be left out, and there is no way to approach parity per population representation and/or contributions to the development of this country.

If fair, the process would predominantly feature Native Americans who should be more widely recognized having their images displayed across the land, and on more than a dollar/quarter/ or nickel coin, followed by monuments in recognition of African-Americans. Just try that!

By the way, will we ever see Harriett Tubman on that twenty-dollar bill, or not?

Quite frankly, I don’t care, except, as long as we are printing money with those white men’s images, I care more. That has been one of the promises.

Private naming is fine as long as it does not encroach on public spaces.

But I understand why symbols are important to so many folks, including us. They attach our emotions to objects, allowing us to express our feelings of allegiance through them. But feeling all those emotions also allow us to avoid thoughtful analysis about their true meaning and intent.

Take the flag and the national anthem and the brouhaha associated with taking a knee, or not saluting before them. Volumes have already been written.

Yet, there is pain on display when we know that the promises implied in the nation’s flag and the words in the anthem, simply don’t cover us.

And that’s what we have survived on – promises. The words conveyed by the lofty idealism of the founding fathers gave us hope for liberty; the ability to pursue happiness – unfettered, unshackled, and with equal protection.

But those protections have been denied to us, the victims of the nation’s original sin. Chattel slavery and its everlasting offspring – systemic racism – affects all of the country’s inhabitants: the original people, the colonizers, as well as the successive waves of immigrants.

It is no longer up for debate that White people have benefited more than non-White people in this country (White privilege). This condition of privilege is a symptom of a breakdown in the “social exchange” theory which, as explained to me by Sandy Howard, PhD, Applied Sociology, helps keep us civil and our society interdependent.

The theory helps explain why, if Black lives don’t matter, then no lives matter!

So, here we are again on the eve of the nation’s celebration of its independence (July 4th), and on the heels of celebrating Juneteenth (June 19th)– a growing celebration of the date the last slaves learned their emancipation in 1865 – and we are no closer than we were in 1863.

The remedy is to vote, Vote, VOTE. Toniwg1@gmail.com