Black Women Who Criticize America Channel Baldwin As Great Americans
As we wind down Independence Day, many “patriots”, and I use that term loosely, are missing the point. Christine Emba in the Washington Post explains how those whom criticize are exercising the fullest expression of American citizenship.
The United States is an idea not based on blood and soil, but on a promise of freedom and representation. Our 50 states form a union constantly in the process of being perfected. America is a nation founded out of dissent and discontent; the Declaration of Independence is a literal list of things the founders wanted to criticize. Indeed, Americans criticize America because we always have from those participating in the Whiskey Rebellion through MLK. When you criticize America, you are being a great American.
In this tradition, it seems recently our greatest Americans have been black women. Whom are these great Patriots?
Gwen Berry is an American track and field athlete who specializes in the hammer throw. Her mark of 77.78 m on June 8, 2018, ranks her #6 on the all time list. She also holds the world record in the weight throw with a mark of 25.60 m set in March 2017. She is a three-time national champion in the weight throw at the USA Indoor Track and Field Championships. She was the gold medalist in the hammer at the 2014 Pan American Sports Festival. She is also the 2019 Pan American Games Champion.
During the award ceremony in the 2019 Pan American Games, Berry was awarded the gold medal for the hammer throw. She raised her fist at the end of the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in protest against injustice in America “and a president who’s making it worse.”
Berry’s protests led the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee to issue new guidelines in order to allow peaceful expressions of protest “in support of racial and social justice for all human beings.” Berry has stated: “I’m here to represent those who died [due] to this systemic racism.”
Berry was reprimanded by the International Olympic Committee, who placed her on probation for 12 months, prohibiting her from any form of protest for a year. Her act cost her sponsorships, and she estimated that she lost $50,000.
In June 2021, during the U.S. Olympic track and field trials for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Berry turned away from the U.S. flag during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner”. She said of the national anthem’s timing that “I feel like it was a set-up”.
According to a spokesperson for USA Track and Field who stated, “The national anthem is played every day according to a previously published schedule”, the anthem was scheduled to be played at 5:20 p.m., though on this occasion the music started at 5:25 p.m. Berry claims an official told her the anthem would play prior to her arrival on the podium. Berry has accused critics of her protest of favoring “patriotism over basic morality.”
Patriotism means supporting your country all the time and your government when it deserves it.Mark Twain
Gwen Berry exercised her freedom of speech, to her detriment, in protest of actions by the government. Sounds pretty American to me.
Nikole Hannah-Jones is an American investigative journalist known for her coverage of civil rights in the United States. In April 2015, she became a staff writer for The New York Times. In 2017 she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship and in 2020 she won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for her work on The 1619 Project.
The 1619 Project
The 1619 Project is a long-form journalism project developed by Nikole Hannah-Jones, writers from The New York Times, and The New York Times Magazine which “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the United States’ national narrative”. The project was first published in The New York Times Magazine in August 2019 for the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in the English colony of Virginia. The project later included a broadsheet article, live events, and a podcast.
The project has sparked criticism and debate among prominent historians and political commentators. Five historians wrote to The New York Times Magazine to ask the creators of its 1619 Project to issue corrections, including for Hannah-Jones’s assertions on the American Revolution and on Lincoln. The correction request was signed by Victoria Bynum of Texas State University, James M. McPherson and Sean Wilentz of Princeton University, James Oakes of the City University of New York, and Gordon S. Wood of Brown University. Historian Leslie M. Harris, who was consulted for the Project, wrote in Politico that she had warned that the idea that the American Revolution was fought to protect slavery was inaccurate, and that the Times made avoidable mistakes.
In response, Jake Silverstein, the editor of The New York Times Magazine, defended the accuracy of the 1619 Project and declined to issue corrections. In March 2020, The Times issued a “clarification”, modifying one of the passages that had sparked controversy. On May 4, 2020, the Pulitzer Prize Board announced the award of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary to project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones for her introductory essay to the 1619 Project.
In September 2020, renewed controversy arose over edits that had been made to the project without accompanying editorial notes, which critics—including Bret Stephens of the Times—claimed showed the New York Times was backing away from some of the project’s more controversial claims. The Times defended its practices.
He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he has obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed again the Liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.Thomas Jefferson, Deleted passage from the Declaration of Independence whose removal Jefferson blamed on southern slaveholders
Nikole Hannah-Jones makes a bold claim, challenging established orthodoxy and inviting controversy, criticism, and debate, only to be rewarded for pushing boundaries that otherwise would not be challenged. That sounds pretty American to me.
Cori Bush is an American politician, registered nurse, pastor, and activist serving as the U.S. Representative for Missouri’s 1st congressional district. The district includes all of the city of St. Louis and most of northern St. Louis County.
A member of the Democratic Party, on August 4, 2020, Bush defeated 10-term incumbent Lacy Clay in a 2020 U.S. House of Representatives primary election largely viewed as a historic upset, advancing to the November general election in a solidly Democratic congressional district. Bush is the first African-American woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives from Missouri. She previously ran in the Democratic primary for the district in 2018 and the 2016 U.S. Senate election in Missouri.
U.S. Rep. Cori Bush ignited fireworks on Sunday (July 4) social media for her Fourth of July tweet.
By Sunday evening, it received more than 31,000 likes. Hours later, she fleshed out her thoughts in a follow-up post, sharing her view of “what freedom looks like” for Black people.
I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?Frederick Douglass, What to the Slave is the 4th of July?
We have an elected official speaking for those who generally do not have a voice in Congress challenging our nation to be more representative and empathetic to the entire population. That sounds like…a great American.
Sha’Carri Richardson is an American track and field sprinter who competes in the 100 meters and 200 meters. Richardson rose to fame in 2019 as a freshman at Louisiana State University, running 10.75 seconds to break the 100 m record at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championships. This winning time made her one of the ten fastest women in history at 19 years of age.
In April 2021, Richardson ran a new personal best of 10.72 seconds, becoming the sixth fastest woman of all time and the fourth fastest American woman in history. She qualified for the 2020 Summer Olympics after winning the women’s 100-meter dash with 10.86 in the United States Olympic Trials.
On July 1, it was reported that Richardson had tested positive for THC (the main psychoactive component found in cannabis) following her 100 m final at the U.S. Trials, invalidating her results and making her ineligible to compete in the 100 m at the Olympics. After successfully completing a counseling program, she accepted a one-month period of ineligibility that began on June 28, 2021.
Richardson stated she took the drug when she needed to cope with the pressure to make it to the Olympics and of dealing with the emotional pain in learning about the death of her biological mother. Richardson has received support from high-profile American athletes, including Michael Johnson and prominent NFL and NBA players, after her suspension, with several indicating they found it ridiculous for her to be suspended for usage of marijuana.
Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to error that counts.Nikki Giovanni
Sha’Carri Richardson has fallen, but refuses to stay down. An athlete in the tradition of Muhammad Ali, another great American though not in scale yet, who promises to be greater after the criticism heaped upon her.
To Criticize Is To Be Ungrateful?
Black billionaires are demanding reparations, Congress wants to take down statues, and teachers across the land are making sure students have knowledge of systemic racism. Emba rightfully acknowledges how accusations of ingratitude, most often targeted towards Black Americans who criticize the country by white Americans, read along the lines of: We freed you from slavery, we offered you civil rights, and still you complain? You should be grateful that we let you stay! To add the analysis of actor Shaun Woodland to that reaction from overwhelmingly white Americans on black complaints: You know you could be swinging from that tree over there.
The fact that slavery should never have existed goes unmentioned. The word “uppity” is felt though it has been replaced by arrogant. As we strive for a more just, equal, and free society, I welcome those who criticize and those complaints about the complaints. We all should. It’s the entire point of the American experiment.
I love America more than any other country in the world, and exactly for this reason, I Insist on the right to criticize her perpetuallyJames Baldwin