Can Black Lives Matter Be Patriotic?

Written by JP Fritz, President

Happy 4th of July!  Happy Independence Day!  Even though the last few months have been difficult for our Country, we should enjoy the weekend and celebrate because we will get through these troubled times.  From Covid-19 to Black Lives Matter, 2020 has given us lots to think about. But today, I would like to show my patriotism by talking about the BLM movement.

For more than a month, I have felt the need to do something, say something, be on the right side of this.  Like anyone who saw the video of George Floyd, I was disgusted and enraged.  I knew immediately what I saw was wrong.  However, I was confused as to why I was feeling so much more strongly about this instance of police violence than others I have seen through the years.  I have tried for many, many years to not be a racist and I assure you I have failed.  I have failed because I could not understand what it meant to be black in our country. It is difficult to see beyond your station in life, but sometimes terrible things give you the sight you need.

Shortly after seeing that video, I spoke to one of my black employees.  I asked him if he ever thought he had been pulled over just because he was black.  He told me that he gets pulled over a couple times a year on his way home from taking tents down late at night.  To me, that meant that he was being pulled over because he was working for my company, doing some of the hardest jobs of picking up at midnight or later.  I asked him what he did when he was pulled over.  He told me that his uncle had been a policeman and had told him to be extremely polite, keep all of his documentation ready, all the time, and to make damn sure not to do something that a police officer might interpret wrongly.  I cannot tell you I would or could react that way if I was simply driving home after working until 2AM.  My irritation for being pulled over if I didn’t recognize what I had done wrong would certainly be obvious. And comparing this with my own experiences of being pulled over really made me think about how I have reacted in the past to hearing stories like this one on the news.

My companies have always hired without concern for race, religion, sexual orientation or anything else you can think of.  You get promoted because of merit.  If you work hard for my companies, you are rewarded, period.  We have wording in our handbooks speaking against harassment for any of these things.  We try hard not be racist.  But I see and know now that not being racist is not enough.  We must be anti-racism.  What does this mean?  Anti-racism is the active process of identifying and eliminating racism and changing systems, organizational structures, policies, practices, and attitudes.

I have always been proud of the USA because we are the land of opportunity.  My Grandfather died when my Dad was 4 years old.  He was brought up by a hard working single mother and was poor.  My Grandmother had great familial support, but they lived off of what a single woman could make back in the 1940’s, which was not much.  My Dad graduated high school and got a job in the hardware business. He worked harder than anyone and became a successful salesman.  My brother and I grew up with higher expectations than he did and ended up starting our own businesses as young men.  In just two generations, we were able to get to become successful businessmen.  I always thought everyone in the USA had the same opportunity as we did.  Work hard, be smart, save your pennies and you will be successful.  The problem, I never realized, is not every American has this same opportunity.

We live in a country where white privilege actually exists.  This is the same country I am proud of for the opportunity for all.  If we want that to be true, we need to work towards a day when every American is treated the same, where the color of your skin and the neighborhood you were raised in does not make a difference.  We make a pledge of allegiance to our American Flag.  In it we say one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.  LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL. 

I was brought up saying the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the National Anthem.  To me, that was part of being patriotic.  Seeing someone kneel seemed unpatriotic to me in the past.  However, I know that we have rights in our country, some of which give us the right to question that country.  Can someone question the USA and still be patriotic?  The answer is an overwhelming yes.  Someone can question our country with the goal of making it better.  That is patriotic.  I believe the purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement is making our country better. BLM Is Patriotic.  

There have been so many movements in our history that have made our country a better place.  They were ugly and sometimes divisive at the time. The abolishment of slavery, women’s suffrage, the civil rights fights that have gone on for decades, and the battles for acceptance and inclusion of the LBGTQ community, these are all important to the growth of our beautiful nation. Black Lives Matter will one day be a wonderful part of our history that brought about changes to the way we think and live. 

Let’s honor that today.  As you celebrate, pray for our Country and remember that not everyone in it has liberty and justice for all.  The United States of America can be what we want it to be, if we all do our part to support and assist the anti-racism movement.