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Standing Up to Donald Trump

Jedidiah Brown
Photo credit: fox32chicago.com

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The world is watching as America slowly falls apart on the presidential campaign trail. At Republican candidate Donald Trump’s rallies, both men and women have been verbally attacked and physically removed, assaulted, and threatened for simply being Black and in disagreement with his stance on how to best run this country. Then there was that moment last Friday in Chicago were something different happened. Trump was forced to cancel a planned event at the University of Chicago after protesters effectively shut down the proceedings, culminating in the moment when the president of the community based organization, Young Leaders Alliance, Pastor Jedidiah Brown, leaped onto the stage and tussled with security for permission to speak. He was pulled away by security and never got a chance to say what was on his mind and yet, his out cry was still heard loud and clear. It was an instant that I rewound in my mind, over and over, clenching my gums, wondering, what’s so patriotic (as Trump supporters have touted) about a Black man being forcefully taken off of a stage?

The visual of that moment was the truth that America needed. We continue to live in a time where the political concerns and opinions of African Americans are often overlooked, but the world is starting to see a changing of the guard where actions are heard over empty words as many of our so-called leaders remain radio silent.

I am a Black, Muslim man, who can honestly say that the idea of any person of color, Muslims or women credited as being a true “American Patriot” is still rather weird. It’s simply something I’ve never seen before. Looking at the past, we’ve accepted patriots as those men who proudly marched for freedom against oppression surrounded by the flutes of democracy to save the day.

But at the very core, patriots are complex Americans who fight for equality, while consequentially remaining imprisoned by the cloaked false economic necessity of institutions like slavery. If we are to be honest, we must see that the praise of those who fight for injustice is still engulfed by a history and reality steeped in Japanese internment camps, Jim Crow controlled mortgage loans, and half-smiled feelings of ‘Jamal’s a good guy, but I don’t know if he’s right for my daughter’ sentiments.

Recently, I stood near the same spot where President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas. As I drank from the fountain in the Dallas County Records Building, I was reminded of a time when a “For Colored Only” sign would have hung above that fountain. I can only imagine that the same wave of emotion that pervaded my thoughts also came over University of Louisville student, Shiya Nwanguma. She was repeatedly pushed and shoved by screaming White nationalists at the Louisville rally and then yelled at by Trump himself to “get out,” reminding the crowd of what would have happen “in the old days.” I guess when they say “we want to make America great again” that this is what they have in mind.

What I learned by watching Pastor Brown and Shiya Nwanguma as they both triumphed in a sea of racist rhetoric is that true patriotism is in non-violent action. It is in storming a stage as a gesture of saying Blacks, Muslims, and Mexicans matter more than the darted words of a presidential candidate who is focused on dividing this country by further destroying the constitutional liberties of the oppressed. A true patriot is a person who loves, strongly supports and fights for his or her country. It’s 2016 and it’s about time our understanding and acceptance of patriotism goes beyond the scope and contributions of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. True patriots are also in fact people like Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Fredrick Douglas, Kendrick Lamar, and now Jedidiah Brown and Shiya Nwanguma.