Ohhhhh Say Can You ...
I want to talk about football. But quick pause - before you say that there are more pressing things to discuss - I think it’s important to note that one can care about more than one issue at a time. And I don’t know about you, but I’m multitasking my concerns right now like WHOA!
If you go back and look at my blog posts, you’ll see that racial equality (and general equality) are subjects that weigh heavy on my heart. Justice, y’all. I really do care, and I really do want to see things improve.
I see a lot of white people refute the idea of white privilege. I see many dismiss the idea of police brutality. I see a lot of division amongst the white community on how to deal with the subject. It’s a “pick a side” kind of world right now. However - I do not see a lot of divisiveness within the black community on these issues, and ... I think that’s worth noting.
A while back a friend of mine shared a really difficult article with me. It was about theatre allyship - or the idea that some people proclaim allyship for the accolades and good feelings it provides them. The article bothered the shit out of me. Truly, shook me to my core. I read it several times, each time feeling angrier and angrier. I think when you experience something that pushes the boundaries on a subject you feel sure about - that’s when you need to really dig in. I had to ask myself why I was feeling defensive. What was I defending? Was I possibly guilty of this theatre allyship that was being spoken of? (Yes was the answer.) Shortly after reading the article the same friend added me to a Facebook group about bridge building. This group opened my eyes to racial injustices, and the point of view that the black community experiences life through. I’ll irritate some of you by saying this - but - my “eye opening” experience also falls into the category of privilege. How lucky for me that that these injustices were something I was told about, not personally experiencing. The big goal here is to be the kind of person that lets differing people tell you what they’re living through, and then acts on bettering their experiences, instead of focusing on how their problem makes you feel.
And so we land back on the topic of football. Ol’ Colin Kaepernick taking the knee. It ruffled some feathers, eh? Big shocker: I wasn’t offended. I’ve never served in the military, or lost somebody in the military, so I’m sure my opinion comes from that bias. I do have veteran friends and family - and they too are pretty divided on the subject. Was it disrespectful? Yes! But that was kind of the point. It grabbed America’s attention! It was peaceful. It was legal. And it got us all talking! It didn’t catch on, and only a handful of players went on to bend the knee. It continued to irritate others, apparently (and especially) Trump, who went on record saying these guys were SOBs who deserved to get fired.
I went on Facebook and pointed out that Trump’s response toward murderous nazi-flag-wielding alt-right protesters was not as harsh as the one he bestowed upon the peacefully disrespectful football kneelers. Because, real talk. That’s messed up, right? If you had to pick a dude to fire are you gonna pick the nazi sympathizer, or the disrespectful football player? Things got crazy, and Americans started burning jerseys and boycotting the NFL. The fans will endorse you if you’re a shitty dude (wife beaters, dog fighters, etc) but you disrespect the flag and you’re dead to us! Like, what?
People went on and on about patriotism. But. That’s wonky, because I feel like Trump has done more to stifle patriotism than any kneeling football player ever could. And besides - patriotism, the military - none of that is the point. (Plus. Isn’t patriotism earned, not guaranteed?) Here’s a direct quote from Colin Kaepernick in regards to his motivation to kneel.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
It’s like we’ve somehow missed the point. Donald Trump managed to politicize the national anthem and honoring our flag so much so, that entire teams didn’t even show up on the field for the anthem. And we’re mad at the folks that knelt? The groups of men who were like, “Hey. Watch me exercise my freedoms?” They’re the bad guys? If anything is unpatriotic in this scenario, it’s deciding who protests, when they protest, and where they protest. Dude, the torch holding alt-right got to do it! Y’all. This was legal. And peaceful. And we are totally, entirely, and unfortunately ... still missing the whole damn point.
I challenge and encourage you to talk to a black friend, or somebody of color in your community. I challenge you to talk with an open mind about white privilege, systemic racism, and police brutality ... with a person of color. Don’t waste your breath on a like minded white guy. Talk to somebody who is experiencing life through a differing lens! Let’s get human up in here, and turn this big fiasco into the important discussion that it always should have been about.
Before I finish, I would like to touch on Facebook, the arguments, and all of that nonsense. We can do better. We can listen to differing opinions, without changing our own. Or, we can listen, challenge what we believe, and change. Or still yet, we can try and find a middle ground. I think a lot of time is wasted just shouting over one another - and that’s a shame. I’m surely not exempt from this.
On the bottom of a heated debate a friend posted this comment - and if anybody caused me any pause on this issue - it was her. This. This is how we bridge the gap ... We empathize. With everybody.
“I wish we could give some room for both sides. My friends buried their son after he was killed serving in Afghanistan. Have you been to one of those funerals? He had barely turned 21. It was excruciating. To see that flag lifted from his coffin, folded, and handed to his family took the breath out of me. It is all they have left. So when they see the knee get taken, it's brutal. Do players have the right? Yes. I question whether they all understand what they are even doing but okay. Is our president calling them out with childish threats helpful? No. There is a conversation that is trying to be held on a giant scale, and he is sticking fingers in his ears while blowing zerbets. I get the frustrations of POC, because they are trying to start a conversation. And they have. Attention has been gained. But darn it. Can we listen now? It's like no one is listening. So they take a knee again.
It's like shooting off a flare!
"Hey, you shot off a flare and it hurt my eyes!"
"Yeah well our boat is sinking. Can you help?"
"But it was bright and our eyes hurt."
"Well we didn't mean to hurt your eyes, but hey, our boat is going down."
"But you shot off a flare and it was bright and we don't like it."
" gurgles from the deep.."
Be kind today friends. Be kind everyday, and to everyone.