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  • Carolyn L. Baker

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion this 4th of July 2020

Updated: Jul 4, 2020

The 4th of July - a wonderful time to pause to honor the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. As the daughter of a career Naval officer, and as Girl Scout, I learned from an early age how to post and retire the flag, and do so on every day of remembrance. This year as I fly the colors it seems especially fitting to also pause and reflect on the genocide and racism that are part of our national history. This dissonance is ingrained in the entirety of the American experience. Our country’s founding is based on two dissonant ideational roots: the high and lofty values of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution set in the realities of colonialism, genocide, and slavery.

Could it be our resulting mindset is the defense mechanism needed to manage our cognitive dissonance? For example, a belief that poverty is deserved. Or that the police killing of black lives is related to something the victim must have done to deserve what they got. And that taking a knee during the playing of the National anthem is unpatriotic and disrespects the flag and veterans who have served to defend our nation. My lifelong compliance with the U.S. Flag Codes gives me the confidence to state that kneeling, or not standing, during the National anthem does not disrespect the flag. Patriotic outrage would be much better placed on the way the U.S. Flag Codes are routinely disregarded, and the flag of our nation disrespected, each time it is displayed flat, used in advertising, and/or in clothing. And this happens daily.

Kneeling, rather, is a humble Christian posture, one of respect. As a child of the 1960s sit-in’s and marches, I see this peaceful protest as a way to draw attention to bigger moral, spiritual, and ethical questions. The act of kneeling is to patiently ask our collective conscience “When will we all be equal in the eyes of the law?” Taking a knee is not done out of irreverence for servicemen and women, but with a heart full of love for America. It is real patriotism.

In his book Stride for Freedom (1958), Martin Luther King Jr. stressed the need to “get back to the ideational roots of race hate, something that the law cannot accomplish.” This 4th of July, let us reflect on how Democracy depends upon the rights of minorities being protected. Irishman John Philpot Curran said in 1790, “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.” In that spirit, this 4th of July is a good time to be open to guidance, be courageously honest, and humble enough to know there is a lot to reframe and rectify, and take the responsibility to do so.

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