When I hear folks, who look like me say, “I’m not Black, I’m (fill in the blank country),” I get it.

They are saying they have a territory, a flag, a set of cultural norms that they embrace, and they have standing in said country as (equal) citizens. At least, I think that’s what they’re saying.

And therein lies a large part of our dilemma: white folk want Black descendants of American slavery to say, “I am not Black, I’m American”; to have us fully embrace all this country stands for, disregarding it’s brutal and bloody history built on greed, avarice, slaughter of the natives, chattel slavery, fear of “colored’’ immigrants, and its entrenched policies and practices that keep marginalized folk suppressed – for over 400 years.

I believe it’s those attitudes which have fueled an outbreak of so-called “white privilege” demonstrations; and the growth of public demonstrations by “Karens” – a not-so new phenomenon.

That’s also why there is such a violent pushback when Black Americans don’t salute the flag, or take a knee, or when we denounce unjust laws, and when we defy authority.

But we cannot stand and say, “I’m not Black, I’m American” because of our historical place in this county: annexed by amendment, but never fully incorporated.

So, what we have is a stalemate.

Sadly, too many Black descendants of African slaves in America, have not yet evolved past the chattel status; some are still selling themselves to the “master” in exchange for favorable treatment. We know who they are, and we rebuke them.

Thank you, James Baldwin for reminding me that “I’m not your Negro.”

There have been so many institutions which have devised ways to keep us in bondage, and we need look no further back than at the recent slaughter of Black men – and a few women, whose bodies were ruthlessly murdered – captured on video which showed the full expression of hateful attitudes.

But it is not just the police forces which should bear the brunt of all the blame. The recent protests and calls for “defunding the police’’are reactions to a deeper sore that has been left festering; grown deep, callused over, reopened, grown deeper, bandaged up, never to fully healed.

This open wound stinks!

Time, after time, police have been pushed to the front line – to hold back their own neighbors. Wielding their batons of authority; their brutality is mostly a symptom of the underlying causes of unrest and pushback. They are often offered up as sacrificial lambs under a regime of systemic racism, sexism, xenophobia, and inhumanity.

Yet, as much as I want to believe that there are more “good” police than there are “bad apples,” another Black man is shot in the back (Rayshard Brooks, Atlanta, GA, June 12,2020).

The entire structure upon which this country is built must be rendered null and void. I admit that in 1776 it was just and noble to rebel against the King’s unfair taxes; to want to establish a more perfect union, to hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal. But there was that compromise, and those lofty notions were poisoned by the allowance of slavery.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Yet, there is hope. After seeing mass gatherings of a wide cross-section of Americans who protested against the death of George Floyd (others), I think for once, the time for systemic change has come.

For centuries, our bodies have been whipped, raped, lynched, burned, tortured, choked, shot, unfairly adjudicated, and disproportionately incarcerated, but the “system” has not been able to shackle our will.

It is our very will to continue breathing, reproducing, excelling in every arena opened to us, to keep learning about ourselves, to protest wrongs, and our efforts to live, is in itself part of the struggle – and the struggle is its own reward.

Maybe one day – soon – I will be comfortable saying “I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America….” knowing that the full faith and protections under that flag will wave over me and mine, with no reservations, no compromises, or with only three-fifths of a measure.

Maybe, soon, I’ll have a country. I’ll have a flag. I’ll have a nation of people who honor the same pledge. Then I might even be able to say, “I’m not Black, I’m an African-American.”

Until then, our next battleground is at the ballot box, and we must vote. Vote. VOTE. Toniwg1@gmail.com