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A couple years ago I was at a Summer fair with my family when I noticed a man walking by me wearing a t-shirt with an image of the American flag on it. Under the flag were the words, “If this offends you, leave.”
In my mind, it’s not about the flag itself. The flag is a piece of cloth with Stars and Stripes on it. It’s about this country that the flag represents.
I know a lot of folks who love this country to death. I know a lot of folks who love to point out the great many flaws of this country. (I know some folks who can check both boxes, but nobody’s trynna hear that noise...)
The thing is, whether you are deeply critical of America or unconditionally in love with her, or anywhere in between, you are equally part of the fabric.
Anyone remember last November when 20,000 employees of Google across the country (across the world, actually) walked out of their offices to protest sexual misconduct and other aspects of what had become a sense of company-wide non-inclusive workplace culture?
Could you imagine if any of the staff who did not walk out updated the Google home page to read “if these colorful letters offend you, then leave?”
20,000 workers. What would happen if they actually left for good? Even besides the massive productivity void it would leave, think of the many other implications if that happened...
What actually happened in that case was Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, wrote an email to the protest organizers, part of which read, “I understand the anger and disappointment that many of you feel. I feel it as well, and I am fully committed to making progress on an issue that has persisted for far too long in our society... and, yes, here at Google, too.”
... My man...
This man at the Summer fair wearing this strongly-worded t-shirt seemed to be sending a message to people who are deeply critical of aspects of America. The seemingly obvious target to me was Colin Kaepernick, who was in the midst of his protests during the national anthem at NFL games. A lot of folks continue to think the flag offends him. Or in other words, that America offends him.
But the thing is, Kaepernick IS America. We ALL are. And like a remarkably successful global tech company, we will always be a work in progress. But since we are ALL America, we all get a say. How can we do better? How can we be better?
All of this is to say, I could have made a case to the man with the strongly-worded t-shirt at that Summer fair that the “flag” has apparently become offensive to him.
But I wouldn’t ask him to leave.