Confessions of a Reluctant Flag-Waver

From The Root:

Presidents Day was once a rude interruption to Black History Month, a reminder of whose terms we were on. This Presidents Day I find myself celebrating.

Flagwaver There are cynical luxuries that come with being black in this country, like the ability to shrug off the dime-store rites of patriotism. We've seen America through a perpetually raised eyebrow, the yeah, whatever perspective that comes with the terrain on our side of American history. And here lies Presidents Day. Like July 4th, Thomas Jefferson and NASCAR— it comes awash in the crimson, white and navy trimming meant to remind us of our blessed status as Americans.

For most of my life, Presidents Day has been—aside from a day off—a crass interruption, a retaining wall built into Black History Month to ensure that we don't forget whose terms we're operating on. Even the name lacks purpose—there's no weighty adjective to highlight why a president warrants a holiday; no devotion to, say, those commanders in chief who were assassinated or who led the nation through particularly trying times. Years ago it was known as Washington's Birthday, which virtually guaranteed that some black people would give the notion the stiff-arm because honoring the first president means you are simultaneously celebrating a slaveholder.

But, as with all else concerning this country, it's not that simple. Black history and Presidents Day share an ancestral link in Abraham Lincoln. There was, in the receding tides of black history, a point when many of us admired him. Carter G. Woodson, who understood Lincoln's flaws better than most, nonetheless chose February for his inaugural “Negro History Week” because both Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were born that month.

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