It seems like conservative America has a new favorite catch phrase:
“If you don’t like America, leave!”
When Colin Kaepernick decided to sit down during the national anthem, many people have demanded he leave. One website says, “Kaepernick is worth approximately $126 million. I suggest that if he doesn’t like America, he take his BLM Muslim bride and head to the Middle East.” The Muslim Bride portion refers to Kaepernick’s girlfriend Nessa Diab, a Muslim-American and an activist.
I’ve had an iteration of my own from a person on my friend’s list on Facebook:
Despite many conservatives hating our president with an unrivaled passion, apparently dissent in anyway requires a one-way ticket out of America.
I don’t like America
I’m among the many Americans who don’t like our country. I think it is an incredibly flawed nation riddled with a toxic history we often refuse to truly acknowledge and almost always refuse to actually rectify. We’ve committed genocide and numerous human rights abuses. While we’ve made some strides in human rights and equality, we’re still a nation founded and dependent on white supremacy. Toxic masculinity has created a society that requires men to be unfeeling robot, infantilizes women, and rejects sexual fluidity while punishing anyone who doesn’t fit inside the gender binary.
And, for the record, I fully support Kaepernick. Kaepernick is the perfect example of how those in positions of power will hate protest in all forms. His protest is quiet and out of the way, it interrupts no one and nothing, and it is still regarded as disrespectful. He’s told he should just close his mouth and be a quarterback, ignoring the plight of Americans. The people who fear equality demand his silence, as well as the silence of other activists. Addressing the problem means acknowledging there is a problem and privilege depends on silence and compliance. There’s a reason why standing on the flag or refusing to stand up for it enrage the masses. We’ve made nationalism our nation’s first language, stunting the intellectual and moral growth of our nation.
The Average America™ would rather Kaepernick to be silent and compliant rather than quietly subversive. They’d rather him play football and not stir up a mess. They don’t want him to get too “uppity” and dedicated to activism. To quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (emphasis mine):
First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
People tell themselves they aren’t racist, but demand the silence of those who acknowledge racism. My family members have said, “Why do you hate being white?” or “You’re getting way too serious with this whole feminism thing.” I’m not an activist, I’m a woman with a big mouth and fast fingers. This has been enough to spur anger and I lack the platform of major figures like Kaepernick.
They’ve created a false dichotomy in their minds where protesters and white supremacists are on equal footings as diametrically opposed extremists when, in reality, they aren’t comparable in any way, shape, or form. One group wants equality. The other wants segregation, alienation, and, in some cases, termination of the other group.
Despite all this, I love America.
I’m American through and through. During my two weeks in China, I really learned exactly how American I am. Surrounded by people from 42 countries, I’ve learned how American I am, even though I’m regularly accused of being un-American at home simply because I’m not patriotic.
I’m a young, progressive idealist who sees so much potential in the world and in my nation. Because I love America, I want to see her become a place of justice and goodness. I want to see her love her children as equally as she claims to. Because I love her, I want her to be the very best she can be.
As a young liberal in the South, many of my friends and I often romanticize Canada over Europe and there’s a big reason why: regardless of how European and transient we’d like to seem, we love America. We want to stay here. We just want America to be a better, more equitable place. Canada seems to be the solution to our problems, as Canada has so many of the things young, disillusioned, Southern liberals want.
Leaving America isn’t the solution. Beyond that, where would so many of these people go? These “If you don’t like it, leave!” comments are regularly directed at African-Americans. Where are they supposed to go? Back to Africa? A land they’ve never known? Beyond that, often times their ancestry is so intermingled with different nationalities and peoples that they have no direct country to return to.
Where am I supposed to go? Immigrating to Canada or Europe wouldn’t be a walk in the park. I don’t speak any other languages. Should I just move to China? I am leaving America for, not because I don’t love it, but because it seemed to be the simplest option to find an alternative path to life, as ridiculous as that sounds.
My distaste for America’s bad qualities doesn’t dissolve my American-ness
I am born and bred in Mississippi. My mother’s family has no recent immigrants, my father’s family has a lone great-grandparent. I am American through and through.
In my 12th grade government class, my teacher taught US Government as the story of American Civil Rights. It seems, throughout history, nothing is more American the oppressed fighting for rights and slowly achieving them—although begrudgingly and all too slowly. If those who want equality should leave the country, this country would still be a slave nation where poor men, women, and people of color are completely deprived of rights. America has been in flux the entirety of its existence. Outrage about the constant change is as old as the Constitution itself.
I do acknowledge some hypocrisy on my front: I’m determined to leave Mississippi at all costs. I believe in my nation’s ability to change, but I do not believe in Mississippi enough to plant my roots here. While I’m moving to China for some time, I fully plan on returning to the United States.
I don’t want America to be “great again” because America has never been great. At every point in our history we have persecuted and degraded people without power to advance the goals of the few. There are no “good ol’ days” when less than 50 years ago women couldn’t have credit cards without a husband’s or father’s approval. There is no time that it is good to go back to.
That’s why America must move forward. That’s why it’s idealists, its protesters, and its youth must hold its hand and drag America into the light of equality. We don’t like America, but we love her and we’re going to do our best to save her.
Photo Credit: Jennifer Parr