Letter to the Editor:
I read a Letter to the Editor penned by Jason Liker, on Monday, September 14,
2020 and was prompted to share my reflections. I was the first to sing the
Tenaha ISD school song and the National Anthem. I sang the National Anthem
from the press box rain, heat, sleet or snow before the football games for
Tenaha High School. During these times, Tenaha ISD didn’t have a band. My
voice was the instrument that represented our school and honored our country.
As a singer, my internal concerns are the hopes of a perfect rendition of the
anthem. The fans, coaches and players anxiously await to hear the last
stanza of the National Anthem: “…O’er the land of the free and the home
of the brave.” All that are able are expected to stand in solidarity, with
hats removed and the right hand placed over the heart during this solemn
moment.” Everyone in the football stadium is listening with a critical ear
to how well the singer performs the final notes. The stadium is then filled
with the sounds of boisterous cheers, applauds and bullhorns; and on to the
kick-off of the game.
The symbolism of the Star-Spangled Banner, written by Frances Scott Key, a
slaveholder, is not the reality for African Americans in America. When I sang
the National Anthem for Tenaha ISD about 30 years or so ago, I couldn’t
imagine that our country would be in such upheaval surrounding this anthem. I
understand fully the civil unrest around the country. As a people, all
created by God, are singing the same song, yet it doesn’t have the same
meaning for African American. But this is by design.
Systemic racism, police brutality, and killings of Black bodies by police
without justice being served have nothing, yet everything to do with the
National Anthem. I believe that it is unpatriotic to say that “taking the
knee” in peaceful protest is dishonoring the military, veterans and the
fallen, when truthfully, African Americans were never included in Frances
Scott Key’s, (a slaveholders) ideals. Thousands of our African American
ancestors were forced to fight and perished in a war to continue their own
enslavement. They weren’t called soldiers, but ‘contraband.’ There were
another 100,000 or so slaves that were forced to work for the Confederacy in
supportive roles as laborers and servants to white soldiers.
It was on the backs (beaten and tortured) of enslaved Blacks who built and
cultivated these United States of America to be the wealthiest, most powerful
country in the world. Slavery became the economic engine of the South with
cash crops of tobacco, rice, cotton, and sugar cane. At the start of the
Civil War, if the Confederacy had been a separate nation, it would have
ranked the fourth richest in the world. By the start of the war, the South
was producing 75 percent of the world’s cotton and creating more
millionaires per capita in the Mississippi River Valley than anywhere in the
Slaves were specifically selected by the slaveholders based upon their gifts,
talents and skillsets for the sole purpose of profit and capitalization. The
enslaved were a commodity, bred as animals to systematically force the
reproduction of slaves to increase the slaveholder’s profits. Slaveholders
raped and sexually assaulted enslaved women, fathering children with them.
Sally Hemmings is a documented example as she was an enslaved woman, owned by
the 3rd president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson.
In many of the articles and documentaries I’ve read, the authors have
romanticized the rape of the slave girl as though the sexual relations
between she and Thomas Jefferson were consensual. Sex was never consensual
between the enslaved and the slaveholder.
Slaves were the property of the
slaveholders and if the slaves resisted, they would be beaten, lynched or
sold. In Sally Hemmings’ son, Madison’s memoir, he states “that his
mother became pregnant for Thomas Jefferson about the age of sixteen.”
Sally Hemmings bore four children for Thomas Jefferson.
The descendants of slaveholders are direct benefactors, continuing to reap
the benefits of unpaid forced labor of my ancestors. Whites are born into
privilege, regardless of class, education, demographics and socioeconomic
No matter how wide the gap between rich and poor, class tensions
among whites were erased by the belief they all belonged to the “superior
race.” As human beings, we are not born knowing how to hate and be racist.
White supremacy and systemic racism are embedded and taught down through
I state my claim, to address so many whites that state that they had no parts
or participation in what their ancestors did. They find it easy to divorce
themselves of the evil and shameful acts of slavery, and readily tell African
Americans to forget about the past and things are not as bad as they were. To
state that African Americans are on an equal playing field as Jason Liker
implies, is a delusional fallacy. A person cannot pull themselves up from
their bootstraps if they don’t own boots.
Racist laws, policies, and practices not limited to, but including Jim Crow
laws, redlining, name discrimination and Plessy v. Ferguson, contribute to
institutional and structural racism. Racism is all-encompassing of police
brutality, the flawed criminal justice system, mass incarceration, education
disparities and poverty.
The 13th, 14th Amendments and the Civil Rights Act
of 1964 are redemptive in theory, but not in practice. Jason Liker states:
“If this country was so steeped in racism; how could a black man (Barak
Obama) get elected to the highest office in the land? We have a black Supreme
Court Justice, we’ve had a black Secretary of State, and there is even a
black woman running for the Vice Presidency.”
The answer to the rhetorical question is as a people, we have the mysterious
ability to triumph and overcome adversity. These quality attributes of
African Americans are the reasons that we have accomplished such great fates.
It is and has been ‘despite of’ and ‘in spite of’ that we are the
strong and resilient people that we are. Our history is a proud one,
chartered with success, prosperity and honorable contributions to our
communities, country and the world.
After the Civil War, Black Wallstreet flourished as a self-contained hub in
the state of Oklahoma until it was attacked and destroyed by a white mob. The
massacre left hundreds of Blacks dead and at least one thousand houses
The massacre began after a nineteen-year old black male was
accused of assaulting a seventeen- year old white woman. The massacre in
Rosewood, Florida began after Fannie Taylor claimed a black man entered her
house and assaulted her.
The police departments and deputized white mobs were the judges, juries and
executioners. This is the very same repeating of history that is happening
in this twenty-first century. George Floyd’s modern-day lynching was
caught on camera for the world to see in real time. The reason Colin
Kaepernick began the movement of “taking the knee” in peaceful protest is
to bring awareness to police brutality and the unjustified killing of Black
One Black Body is too many, as African Americans represent 13.4% of the
population and Whites represent 76.3% of the population in the United States.
To counter the argument of Jason Liker, more whites were killed by police in
the last five years, because of the population of whites, leaving a
disproportionate number of Blacks being killed by police. Colin Kaepernick
and many others are being oppressed and the oppressors “knees are on their
necks.” It’s the same methodology that was used where millions of black
Americans were targeted by racial terror lynching’s to control Black
I am not sensationalized by the media. I purpose to utilize the various media
outlets to remain relevant of the current events. I control my own narrative
from the vantage point of a Black woman, mother of a Black man and lived
I am a Christian and I have not read anywhere in the Bible that
God has commanded that we worship symbols, flags and patriots. I have read
however, that Jesus said that we have fulfilled all of the Commandments and
the Law when we love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39).
I am intentional in presenting factual information and not a rhetoric such as
Jason Liker. I will not deflect from the real issues and minimize the pain of
My prayer is that I can sing the National Anthem again with the
stanza …”O’re the land of the free and the home of the brave,” as the
true reality and lived experiences of African Americans and people of color
in these United States of America. May we strive to move forward in
solidarity, reconciliation and restorative justice. (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Reverend Cassandra D. Bering, MDiv.
Native of Tenaha, TX, currently residing in Fort Worth, TX
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