Jose, can you see, by the dawn’s early light, police stopping you, asking questions, driving while Brown, walking while Black, living while any color other than white. Where you from? No, where you really from?
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming, Graciela, can you see when they stopped you in the store, harassed questioned you. Papers, please! We did say please. Your children screaming, you barely whispering, But, I was born here!
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight, Manuel, can you see you movin’ too slow. Sirens screaming through the perilous fight. How many cops does a beat down need? Next time, don’t drive or walk, or take the bus. Hell, just don’t breathe.
O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming? Juanita, can you see a knee shoved into your back, down on the ground, on your way home from the ten dollar an hour job wearing that little black dress. Miss, don’tcha you know prostitution is illegal, as your arrest is streamed live on WorldStar. Next time, don’t walk home.
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Jesus, helicopter spotlights will make you famous, sprawled on the ground, Face up hands out hands up, a gun, cold and draped in the flag, at your head. Eyes wide shut as the rocket’s red glare the bombs bursting on your head and all you did was ask a question Why was I pulled over?
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there, María Elena, proud of that AA, BA, MBA, from Taco Stand to Taco Empire but you a little too brown for a CEO, your English a little too accented, speaking Spanish to your mother at Tiffany’s while Karen and Ken scream at you This is America and in America we speak English. Proof that their flag is still there.
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, Luis, they’re still screaming at you to stop or we’ll shoot. INS, DEA, FBI, DHS six abreast six deep, it’s an overtime circus racing to make sure that their star-spangled banner is yet waving.
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave? Dylcia, can you see the march protesting your son’s death, the gas canisters, bullets in the air, what goes up must come down. Iphones Google Phones, recording for tonight’s TikTok moment (No one checks Facebook anymore). You just wanted answers but now you just one more brown person getting the shit kicked out of. Dylcia, can’t you see…you are not in the home of the brave or the free.
Antonio Ruiz is an ex-junkie-alcoholic, former seminarian, one-time radio host-producer, past community organizer, continuing to be a media advocate, retired television reporter, ex-commission executive director, once a street vendor of jewelry and gloves, waitron (waiter to you), a former bartender who drank too much on the job, an ex-motorcycle courier who learned to ride a bike just for the job, ex-airport shuttle driver, former Entertainment news director-producer, the best time of my life, one-time live TV events red carpet producer-executive producer, ex-small business consultant, ex-youth media and journalism mentor, and now a college student who also has been married three times (thirds the charm), and just couldn't help living with two other women because well, that's part of my story.
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