Danny Cardwell's picture

    God Didn't Bless America

    And I'm proud to be an American, Where at least I know I'm free. And I won't forget the men who died, Who gave that right to me.

    -- Lee Greenwood

    Eric Garner         Walter Scott


            Philando Castile  

    Terrence Crutcher

    Lee Greenwood released God Bless America in 1984. After 911 it was re-released and has become the new unofficial national anthem. It's a song that invokes patriotism and unity. I've heard this song more times than I can count; I even read the lyrics a few times before I sat down to write this. God Bless America gave me the inspiration to write about arbitrary policing and the public killing of Black men and women by people sworn to protect them. I wish I lived in the America Lee Greenwood sang about. I wish I felt like a part of the American fabric the way he did in 1984. Most people are envious of the material wealth others have, I find myself envying the sense of patriotism people like Lee Greenwood have. It hurts to knowing America has never and will never love me the way Lee Greenwood loves her.  

    I'm a "race hustler"; you've heard about my kind forever, but I'm most notably discussed on a variety of conservative media outlets. I never bought into the lie of a post-racial society. I hold the scandalous worldview that America still has serious racial issues to overcome. The public executions of people of color bothers me more than it seems to bother many of my fellow Americans. I'm also bothered by the state of public schools in several black communities, the data on unemployment and underemployment causes me to ask some questions, the disparities in the criminal justice system, and a bevy of other issues I can think of. I'm a "race hustler" because I point out the reality many in our country either don't understand, don't care about, or would rather ignore. Most people are tired of hearing about these grievances. I'm almost certain that I'm equally tired of experiencing many of these indignities and writing about the indignities others have endured.

    Most "real" Americans remain silent during highly politicized incidents of police brutality. Don't think your silence goes unnoticed! We know when our friends can't find their tongues or keyboards. Some of you offer your "expertise" on issues concerning the black community when you feel we are wrong, but then go missing when presented with images that validate the claims we've been making over the years. We're not as stupid as you think. Our truth doesn't need to be validated to have value, but your silence acts as a wedge that loosens the trust that we've built. Some of our closest allies have an uncanny ability to see incidents of police brutality as disjointed from each other. This, in my opinion, is rooted in the historical denial of the plight of people of color in America. More times than not discussions about race digress into debates about what black America's priorities should be: as if one can't be upset about "black on black crime" and the legacy of racism in America at the same time. Highly publicized events are filtered through political and racial filters capable of negating video evidence and empirical data. Videos are broken down to the millisecond, words are parsed, and facts are stripped of their truth value. There are people who will do or say anything to avoid admitting that America still has a race problem.

    Too many people choose to take sides based on race and ethnicity instead of right and wrong. Our collective ignorance and intellectual dishonesty has forced too many people into either or propositions that almost guarantee we will never find meaningful solutions to our collective problems. If I say #BlackLivesMatter and you hear anything other than those words, then it's not my responsibility to unpack the cognitive and linguistic baggage you bring to the discussion. I'm not a trained psychoanalyst or therapist. I don't know why people seeking justice and asking for equal treatment under the law causes anxiety inside of you. It's possible to grieve for the families of victims of police brutality and the families of cops killed in the line of duty: doing both is actually easier than walking and chewing gum at the same time. In America when people of color or Muslims commit crimes the elders in those communities are required to apologize for the actions taken by one of their own. The community elders have to assure greater society that we still love and value you, but when people of color die at the hands of law enforcement there's no such mechanism in place where greater society consoles our grief.

    Discussions about race are exhausting. It takes entirely too much time to convince some people that there exists a reality in which some people have a set of experiences that are different from theirs. There's so much paranoia surrounding the legacy of white supremacy that the notion of white privilege, or as I like to call it "advantageous societal predisposition" causes a reflexive defensiveness to kick in. It's been my experience that the term white privilege makes people feel like they've received a gift they can't physically locate; whereas, advantageous societal predisposition places the onus back on society, but either way we have to be honest enough to admit that America has a lot of work to do. 

    When people of color are the victims of arbitrary policing and police brutality their character is the first thing tried in the court of public opinion, as if being wrongfully accused or murdered in cold blood could ever be justified. The media is complicit in this character assassination. If I'm ever hashtagged the media won't use pictures of me addressing church congregations, giving a talk, on my wedding day, or helping some kid with their Algebra. You're more likely to see a picture of me leaving the gym on a cold day with a hooded sweatshirt, or me wearing a leather jacket and a baseball cap backwards. Instead of being someone's husband, son, brother, and friend, I'll be portrayed as a menacing threat that needed to be put down. If I get hashtagged White America won't have the collective freak-out they have when an animal is killed. I won't get the Harambe love. This is the reality that I can't lie to myself about. I can't afford to live in the fairy tale world where #AllLivesMatter. Not knowing my place in society can get me incarcerated or killed, and there's not any level of accomplishment that can shield my Black body from that societal reality. God didn't bless America and certainly hasn't sanctioned the injustices that continue to be part of our daily lives. I stand for the anthem, but I understand why others don't. The fact that more Americans are offended by people not pledging allegiance to a flag that represents a nation that has taken their lives for granted is a sign of how far we are from being an inclusive society. 

    Keep it 100%: which pictures of me would the media use if I got hashtagged?






    Great post, Danny. I've got nothing to say but amen.

    Thanks Doc! I appreciate it. I hope you've been able to enjoy your summer.

    A brilliant piece, Danny.  I'm so grateful you've agreed to join our community here, for so many reasons.  You've put this issue into perspective in a way that is real and heartbreaking, because we all know which picture would be used for the world to see.

    In a FB thread just this morning someone asked about our own experiences with the police and I had to think back a long way to remember my own. I haven't had that many, but I realized that every single encounter I've ever had with the police has been positive.  Every traffic stop ended with smiles and fair warnings.  I've only had one ticket in all my years of driving and the officer practically apologized for having to give it to me. (I was going 40 in a 25 MPH zone.)

    Once, when I was a young mother living in Ventura, California, I was driving home from the laundromat at night and ran a red light.  The cop stopped me and instead of giving me a ticket, insisted on following me home so I would get there safely.  When I got out of the car he saw that I was pregnan andt he carried my laundry basket up the flight of stairs to my door.

    I'm white, I'm a small woman, I can sweet-talk and appear as meek as a kitten when I need to.  Men don't have that advantage, and black men least of all.

    I admit when it comes to violence of any kind, I've led an extremely sheltered life. My silence is often sheer horror. I can't begin to comprehend what's been happening to black men and women, I can't put myself in their place, I can't pretend to know what they're feeling---to understand their frustrations, their rage, their feelings of hopelessness, of being alone in a country that promises but has never delivered protection and equality for all.

    I can empathize and sympathize but I can't know.  I'm on your side, I'm at your side, but I can't be you.  Still, keep these pieces flowing, Danny.  This is how we join forces and win.

    Thanks for your kindness. That means more to me than anything. Being a good, caring, and decent person is more than enough. All of us have hurdles to overcome. There's male machismo that needs to be tamed in the soul of every man. None of us are responsible for society conditioning us to see women as trophies to collected, but we are responsible for not acting on those base feelings. We owe it to ourselves to admit our weaknesses and shortcomings. I value the dialogue we've had over the last year or so. Thanks for just being you!


    Excellent post.

    Best patriotic song, Ray Charles' version of "America the Beautiful"


    Runner up Whitney Houston "Star-Spangled Banner"

    Best alternative patriotic song Marvin Gaye's soulful "Star-Spangled Banner"

    It is interesting that the NRA is silent when a black man legally carrying a gun is murdered by police.

    The sad thing is that it is unlikely that any of the officers involved in the shootings will be convicted of any crime.

    Keep it 100%: which pictures of me do you think the media would use if I got hashtagged?

    "But he was no angel..."

    Amen! I hope you are well. Thanks for engaging!

    Thanks Danny.  I never liked Lee Greenwood's hollow patriotism and you have illuminated why his is a false paradigm.   We must work together to end the violence.

    Hi Danny

    My son has this buddy that he has not had a lot of contact with since he provided me with three grandkids and between his job and his kids and....

    Sean had this joke. But it was not a joke as such. He was at this buddy's home and he received a call from his friend in the military. 



    The audience responded:


    Everybody laughed.

    Anyway, Sean told me all about this friend who makes more money in a year than he sees in ten years.

    But, his friend ends up being stopped twenty more times in a few years than Sean is ever stopped, on the highway.

    I recall the old WWII movies where we are informed that the NAZI's were are all interested in papers.


    The reason this friend is stopped all the time is because he has reached the American Dream and lives in the suburbs where most folks are white. And there are reasons for this that I have written about in several blogs over the years.

    Has Sean ever been stopped?

    Yeah, but 'they' usually let him go.


    I suppose this is caricature in the worst context.

    But when we read O'Reilly....?

    Billo has this thing about single mothers and... and Billow has been divorced and cannot see his kids or sends his attorneys to fight the fight and....

    Billo is an absentee father?


    I am just a white old man who cannot understand what some folks cannot understand is really happening


    I do not wish to sound cheap here but damn, in 1963 here was the only answer I could find:



    Thanks for taking time to share your story. Unfortunately for the vast majority of people the Bill O'Reilly's of the world have such a large platform to spew their elementary pseudo-science. We are in a tough spot for sure. Thanks for engaging in this dialogue. 

    Latest Comments