I have a secret. I am not the biggest fan of America. I have never waved a flag. I'm no jingoist. Even in elementary school I was reluctant to say the Pledge of Allegiance. And this was long before I was ever given a valid reason for my unenthusiastic attitude. It would feel as if I sold myself for 30 pieces of silver to sit here and say that I love my country. However, I cannot ignore the bit of envy I have for our American patriots. It must be a beautiful thing to wake in the morning and be able to say, "I will defend and even die for my country if the duty calls." Unfortunately, I do not have a reason to make that same pledge.

Speaking on behalf of every young African-American male who has been falsely accused and incarcerated, the victim of racial profiling or police brutality, guilty of DWB (Driving While Black) or just picked on for any damn reason imaginable, it is hard to stand up for a country that rarely, if ever, stands up for you. I can't even count the number of times merchants have followed me at the mall (Shopping While Black). Police have run into my parents' home without warrant, saying they thought there was a problem because of the "gang" (my friends and me chilling on the porch) of young men in our yard.

I would be lying if I denied the bit of fear I feel when a squad car pulls behind me. I just ain't in the "liberal north" no more. A late-night joy ride on a back road in Mississippi could lead to a lynching, for all I know. Soon to be 23 years old, I find myself torn between influences of reconciliation and separation. Rooted in this ambivalence, though, my heart is driven toward patriotism—but not the same patriotic blood that runs through the veins of many other Americans. I can never be patriotic to a land or a piece of paper or cloth. All these things will eventually pass and fade away. I can, however, pledge allegiance to a never-ending fight to make the U.S. the place any true American dreams of.


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