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Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation
U.S. flags on the National Mall. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

By Kanika Richardson, Ed.D. |


Patriotism as defined by Webster is love or devotion for one’s country.

Can you love something and still be critical of it? What about devotion?

Devotion as defined by Webster is the fact of being ardently dedicated and loyal.

Is everything you own American made? Do you follow or believe in everything in the Constitution?

I know it is not possible. It is unrealistic but that is devotion defined, right? This is not a measuring stick for being patriotic. Patriotism is shown in many forms, therefore you cannot judge if someone is lacking patriotism.

The American Flag: On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed an act establishing an official flag for the new nation.

There are some guidelines that come with displaying the flag. It should be displayed daily and on holidays at buildings of public institutions, schools, and polling places on election days. When the flag is raised or lowered at a parade or ceremony, everyone is supposed to face the flag and put their right hand over their heart.

The National Anthem: The Star Spangled Banner lyrics come from a poem written by Francis Scott Key in 1814 during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. In 1889, the Navy officially started using it and in 1916 President Woodrow Wilson ordered the Star Spangled Banner to be played at military events and other appropriate occasions. In 1931 it was made the national anthem by a congressional resolution.

Did you know black people were slaves when the flag was established and when the anthem was written?

The Pledge of Allegiance: Written in 1892 by the Socialist minister Francis Bellamy for the use of citizens in any country. In 1923, the United States of America was added.

The key part of the allegiance, “with liberty and justice for all.”

Between the years of 1892-1953, black people in America were nowhere close to liberty and justice for all.

The purpose of me breaking down these national symbols was to point out the times they were brought into existence and where black people were in terms of basic rights.

The history between black people and the United States runs deep. The love of country for white people is different. Black people have a love/hate relationship. Yes, things have changed but in many ways they still remain the same. There is still oppression. It just looks different. If you are not black and not concerned, you will not know.

The points I make are to enlighten those who feel a protest by football players kneeling during the anthem is disrespectful. There is plenty of injustice that’s geared directly toward black people. Watch the news. Colin Kaepernick took a knee in a personal and silent protest for social injustice. He took a knee because he could not stand for the symbols that are supposed to represent justice for all, when all are not afforded that justice.

In order to progress to a place of understanding between different groups of people we must listen to their story. The issues that divide us have never really been addressed. In my experience ears are closed and opinions are strong on racial issues. I have heard everything from “get over it” to black people are ungrateful. Black people are very grateful for the opportunities they have but they are earned more than any other race in America. As a black person in America you can’t be good, you have to be great, you can’t be smart, you have to be brilliant, you always have to do more to show your worth. To who? A country that seems to devalue your plight every moment it gets.

The issue was never about the military, flag or anthem. It was about the symbolism of what they represent and how the symbols have failed many.

Ponder this. If I take pride in the flag and anthem, I would be more concerned with individuals who use these symbols to incite hate than those who are searching for what these symbols are supposed to stand for, which is freedom and justice for all.

Or maybe I am confused and all of this is just lost in translation.

Dr. Kanika H. Richardson is a devoted educator, coach, and researcher of social injustice in sports. A self-proclaimed, “sport nerd,” she takes pride in knowing random stats and historical moments in sport.


  1. Mr. Washington—
    1. My post was unedited. Do you know that Dr. Richardson’s essay was edited and that the errors are from the editor? I suspect you do not, but in your zeal to defend every aspect of the sister’s divisive post you maintain this strain on credulity.
    2. “your lack of ignorance in understanding symbolism is funny” You seem also to be linguistically challenged.
    3. Had you read Dr. Richardson’s piece, you would have noted that it was not until 1931 that the Star-Spangled Banner became our anthem. Do you know when slavery ended? Hint: before 1931.
    4. “How can I disrespect a country who disprected [sic] my people first?” I don’t believe you can respect any part of the white nation, it’s white Freedom Riders who died to stop Jim Crowe, or it’s white armies who died by the hundreds of thousands to stop slavery. Nor can you respect congressional action instituting Operation Head Start, Affirmative Action, and billions sent to improve the inner cities. Alas, haters are going to hate.
    5. I admit to not being the most knowledgeable person in the nation, though I have a doctorate, taught years at the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University, and have been a district supervisor of two K-12 districts in New Jersey. I also grew up in the Brooklyn Housing Projects where my friends were of different ethnicities and races.
    6. “And you sir are ignorant. Enroll in a class in Africana studies before you speak on something you know nothing about. You’re not black, [sic] therefore [sic] you don’t and won’t understand.”
    I am ignorant of much, I know, but I am not ignorant of what the Pledge and Anthem mean, nor am I ignorant of African-American culture — how you know I am such would seem to require a Ouija board at least. However, because I am white you believe I “don’t and won’t” understand black concerns. The question is whether you believe you have the ability to understand white concerns? See if you can guess what I and any other readers think based on your diatribe.

  2. First and foremost the article is edited by an editor so those errors are not due to the writing as the article is shaved down in order to post. Furthermore, your lack of ignorance in understanding symbolism is funny. Obviously you don’t know your history as it is clear that symbols that were put in place for a nation who at that time had people who were enslaved could not have been put in place for those people. How can I disrespect a country who disprected my people first? Makes no sense. Blind patriotism once again! Not willing to really discuss the issue, only willing to devalue how black people feel. People like you are the reason. Ignorance is bliss! And you sir are ignorant. Enroll in a class in Africana studies before you speak on something you know nothing about. You’re not black, therefore you don’t and won’t understand. Educate yourself and check your grammatical errors before you come for someone else and do not understand how editing and posting work. Just another white person trying to devalue a black person like the article says.

  3. I would say you’re confused. Both the flag and anthem are symbols representing this nation, they are not symbols of white people and the enslavement of black people or that some people, white and black, are racist. Nor, by the way, do they symbolize the millions of white people who fought and died to free their black brothers and sisters. Rather, the flag and anthem by extension represent the whole nation and its great democratic though imperfect experiment. To defend, as you do, blatant disrespect for those symbols exhibits an ignorance and ingratitude that is astounding coming from a highly educated woman. Sadly, not only are you confused about our national symbols, you are also confused about language. I stopped counting the number of grammatical errors in your divisive post, but I am available to help both your intellectual and linguistic weaknesses.


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