I wonder how it feels to have your protest stolen.
To be honest, I’ve never been a 49er or a Colin Kaepernick fan. When he sat down for the national anthem to draw attention to the inequities that still exists in our culture for people of color, I thought him disrespectful of our country.
But then he, and others, decided to kneel instead, not wanting people to mistake their protest as disrespect for flag, country, or its men and women in uniform. They just wanted our society to confront the fact that racial inequality still exists in our society. It does you know. You’d be a fool to think otherwise.
But most white people it seems would rather ignore that fact, thinking it was fixed fifty years ago when we passed civil rights legislation. While we do have equality under the law, we don’t yet have an equitable society given the great economic disadvantages that hold over from slavery and segregation. The escalating fear between police and the black community has led at times to innocent people being shot, and white America for the most part ignores it. It’s a problem for the ‘hood, or so they want to think.
What these athletes were hoping is that the majority white audience of the NFL would be confronted with a problem that is as yet unresolved in our culture and stand the powerless who live in neighborhoods most people wouldn’t choose to live in, who are incarcerated at disproportionate rates with disproportionate terms, and who lack the opportunities to better their lives that others have.
Why are we in white America so uncomfortable that we don’t want to take a look at the problem? Yes, it’s huge. No we don’t have enough governmental funds to throw at it, but the first step to change isn’t a new program, but compassion for people who weren’t born with the same advantages you were. You don’t have to be a racist to ignore it; you just have to be uncaring for humanity and too content with your own advantage.
To ignore the deeper issue others twisted it to make it about patriotism, the very thing these athletes were bending over backward to make sure we couldn’t do. Even President Trump has decided that to make America great again we have to despise those people who want to confront us with the truth that the ideals of this great nation don’t yet apply to all of us. I’m weary of those who want to defend his denigration of fellow American citizens expressing free speech as “sons of b*****s” and demand they be fired rather than take their concerns seriously. His actions simply underscore what began the protest in the first place and it is disappointing that he doesn’t see it as his responsibility as President to bring us together on these issues, rather than polarize us for the popularity he craves with his base.
Even the NFL teams who are linking arms, or staying in locker rooms are subverting the original issue by making it about free speech or team unity, rather then the inequities of race still inherent in our culture.
I wonder how it feels to have your protest stolen, to watch people care more about a flag than they do the lives of those living under it. Our soldiers fight for freedom overseas, but their work is not done if we’re not willing to fight for it at home—-for every American. Black lives suffering under oppression, fear and poverty do matter and their plight needs to move us all.
We need a better conversation about race in our culture and finding ways to nurture greater opportunities for those who are disadvantaged, not by our intent perhaps but by ignoring a history that didn’t treat us all fairly. We need reasonable men and women to come to the table and take up the task of making our society safer, fairer, and more equitable for all.
Nelson Mandela fought against bitterness for peace in post-apartheid South Africa by believing none of us are free until we all are free.
He was right. It’s not the symbol of liberty that’s at risk here, but liberty itself!