Your Racism is Not Patriotism

Kayla Lien, Opinion Editor

Hearing the word “patriotic,” thoughts immediately turn to the United States. Pride in this country has turned into a competition. Come Fourth of July, grocery stores, houses, people, everything gets covered in red-white-and-blue. We put the flag on our porches, on our clothing, or on our bodies in the form of tattoos. Fireworks light up the night sky. That isn’t bad. Patriotism drives the success of this country.


Sadly, people already blend their ideas of patriotism with racism, and since the attacks on the Twin Towers on 9/11, that occurrence is rapidly increasing.


Frank Silva Roque, a man convicted of murder, reportedly claimed to his friends and an Applebee’s waitress that he was “going to go out and shoot some towel-heads,” the day of the attack on the Towers. Three days after, Roque shot and killed Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh gas station owner, from his truck. Sodhi was helping landscaper Luis Ledesma plant flowers around the establishment when Roque attacked.


After killing Sodhi, Roque headed to a Mobile gas station where he shot at a Lebanese-American, but thankfully missed. He then went to his former residence, owned by a local Afghani family. He fired several rounds outside the house, but no one was injured.


Fleeing from the final shooting, Roque went to a bar and boasted, “They’re investigating the murder of a turban-head down the street.” Police apprehended him a day later. During his arrest, Roque shouted, “I am a patriot!” and “I stand for America all the way!” This man cloaked his racism in a blood-soaked flag and pledged his allegiance to this country.


May 26 of this year, Jeremy Joseph Christian was on the MAX light-rail train when he started spewing hate at two young women, one of which wore a hijab. He told the girls to “go back to Saudi Arabia,” and that they “weren’t anything and that [they] should just kill [them]selves.”


Ricky John Best, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, and Micah David-Cole Fletcher, passengers of the train who had witnessed the harassment, tried intervening, but ended up being the victims of a stabbing. Best and Namkai-Meche were killed, while Fletcher had non-life-threatening injuries.  


Christian was charged for second-degree intimidation, two counts of aggravated murder, attempted murder, and being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon (as he was previously convicted of armed robbery, kidnapping, along with an earlier charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm). Just after his arrest, from the back of a squad car, he still ranted. “I just stabbed a bunch of (expletives) in their neck… I can die in prison a happy man. Think I stab (expletives) in the neck for fun? Oh, yeah, you’re right I do. I’m a patriot.” In front of a judge, Christian yelled, “You call it terrorism, I call it patriotism! You hear me? Die.”

If that’s patriotism, then rape can be classified as enthusiastic agreement to sex. Why is there such a fuzzy line between two words that are antonyms?


Ask what the American flag represents to different groups of people and you’ll get multiple different answers. Some may say it represents freedom and liberty for U.S. citizens. Others think it symbolizes the country. But it’s only a piece of fabric that we hold onto, the same way we might hold onto a baby blanket or stuffed animal that makes us feel safe. We are comforted by the red, white, and blue banner hanging in every classroom, above doorways, and on every flagpole.


Administrators of this school, East High, have denied any reports of racism, passing the responsibility to others, even though the reality of it is glaringly obvious. Take a walk in the halls and really look and listen to student interactions. The audacity to deny racism’s existence is not only harmful, it’s degrading and heart-shattering. To turn a blind eye to problems, to pretend that everything is fine and whole tells students who are suffering that help isn’t coming. It shows that those who run this school care more about public image than the betterment of the community and their students.


Principal Greg Maughan pushed culpability onto the Assistant Principals, and only one of the four attempted the challenge, but ignored the truth of the situation. Administration expects us to act like adults what with the workload and arduous classes, but treat us like children when they don’t like what we have to say.


A Tibetan student witnessed racism in the classroom, and not even from other students. “My History teacher saves assignments for students based on the race she thinks they are. This one time, we were talking about the fall of empires and she “saved” the Han Dynasty article for me and I’m not even Chinese. She also saved this Nepali kid the Indian empire one.” The same teacher makes racially-charged jokes on the students’ behalf, and gave this student a Chinese religion to study. Racial profiling happens enough in students’ daily lives’, where is the promise that it won’t happen in their school?


This terrible phenomenon shows its ugly head even in preschool. In a study from Yale, teachers watched a clip of four preschool-aged, well-behaved children playing together, two boys, one white and one black, as well as two girls, also one black and one white. Though the kids were calm, and nothing was out of order, the teachers had to look for signs of possible problems. A monitor tracked where the eyes of the teachers’ went and focused, and found that they mainly watched the black children, especially the boy. This follows previous Yale research suggesting that teachers see “acting out” by black children more threatening than the same behavior of white children.


This isn’t normal. When those who are educators of the new generation are subconsciously (or not so subconsciously) boxing preschool-aged children into their prejudice, we should be alarmed and concerned for these students’ and their future. They will grow up faced with barriers and locked doors because of their physical appearance.


We like to say that this fight is over and done with, but our pride in that is false. We look at Nazism and the KKK as things that are old news, but they’re still real and detrimental. People wear armbands with swastikas on them and white sheets that don’t remind us of Halloween. The “Nationalist Social Movement” operates statewide, “Fighting for White Civil Rights,” and hiding their real title of Neo-Nazism. When will society erase this appalling culture of enmity? Why is facing a constant barrage of hatred so normal? And why is it accepted in our school?


East High is ranked 6th out of 190 Utah schools for diversity by Niche. We have a wide variety of languages, religions, ethnicities, races, backgrounds and stories. If we’re so culturally, linguistically, and genetically diverse, why does this school continue to have a racial division?


East High was founded during the Jim Crow era, a time of callousness that was ultimately unjust yet seemed normal. Looking at the photos hung in the corridor by the Tall Hall and next to the exit across the Seminary building, the obvious demographic of students were fair-skinned kids with light hair and light eyes. Those exact foundations of racial superiority seep their way into the school’s curriculum in the same way that slang words slip into teen vocabulary. Uncomfortableness and anxiety ensue for one of a different race when they’re in a class full of a group of another, but it happens in every social situation imaginable.


We have to believe in hope for the future. We have to believe that the efforts and struggles of the students’ will win out. This generation must rise together, a group of the discriminated, the oppressed, the ones whom society ignores and berates time after time.