I certainly understand both perspectives on this issue — first that people have a constitutional right to protest injustice and second that doing so during the national anthem is disrespectful to those who defended that right. I personally find kneeling during the national anthem to be disrespectful. I always put my hand on my heart during the anthem. I have personally shed tears during the beautiful patriotic concerts on PBS. We all can be offended by the words or deeds of others, but I also believe that government intervention in this matter is a huge overreach. I see the kneeling as similar to Muhammad Ali refusing to fight for freedom in Vietnam when that freedom was not fully guaranteed to him or people of his skin color. The kneeling in the NFL is not just Colin Kaepernick; it is league-wide. That’s because it was never about Colin Kaepernick; it was about injustice against an entire group of people. It was about exposing the great hypocrisy in the “land of the free” — that people of color are disproportionately incarcerated or die in police shootings unavenged.
People have a lot to say on what people did wrong in this whole situation — left or right. However, instead of pointing out what people did wrong, why don’t we discuss what we all can do right? Why don’t we try to resolve concerns that individuals have and empower them in a healthy and productive way? Why don’t we look beyond what people do and look at why they do it? There is a reason that many resort to extreme statements or deeds. No one listens to quiet. No one cares about quiet. After all, “it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.” Even if they are met with MASSIVE backlash, the loud ones get the platform they were seeking all along. People are talking about racial justice because there are people out there standing up for it.
The problem is much more than the NFL. The problem is much more than kneeling during the national anthem. It’s that we often are fearful about our future, and we feel that no one is doing anything about it. Others have been listening to respond, not to understand why we feel a certain way. How can we expect to change someone’s mindset if we do not listen first? How can we expect those with opposing views to trust us if we pontificate through a screen, frame them in absolutes, and avoid engaging them in person with maturity and sincerity?
I believe it comes down to how caring and proactive we are. Sometimes we are kind, and sometimes we are vicious. Sometimes we act to ensure that things don’t get worse, and sometimes we wait until things hit rock bottom before we do anything. But we’re all human. Our free will means we will make mistakes, but it also means we have opportunities to do better. We can hold people accountable for what they do, but I think we all have an opportunity to teach others what they can do better. We should never rationalize negative behaviors, but we should understand their causes. If we work to empathize with each other, we can drive away a great deal of the fear and the hate that plagues this great nation.
What do you think?