I’m still learning about what life in the United States involves (it’s passions, beliefs, struggles, issues etc). The recent, and ongoing peaceful protests carried out by various NFL players has been eye-opening. Sports often brings people together, so the mixed reactions to the ‘Take a Knee‘ protests gave me a glance into the American psyche.
You ascertain a lot about a country and its people by the way it tackles a common issue. But racism, and the systemic oppression that often goes hand-in-hand with that, is not an issue that all Americans, and those that live here, will experience.
And when an issue is not equally felt by all, you get an imbalance in cognizant understanding. This lack of cognizance can be due to being fully aware of the issues, but as you benefit from them, you don’t want things to change (wilfully ignorant), or, because the issues don’t directly impact you personally, you do not engage and therefore limit any social change (blissful ignorance), and if you actively engage in the continuation and support of systemic oppression based on anyone who is not your skin colour, and you see yourself as superior, that is racism.
It has been disheartening to see how the message of the ‘Take a Knee’ protests, which aimed to start a dialogue and try to create positive change about police brutality and systemic oppression of people of colour, has been hijacked. More often than not, when discussing the protests, the narrative has nefariously been sidelined to that of disrespecting the flag (anthem, and military). If you are highly offended about the protests, that is your right, and it is protected. If you feel so strongly about the flag being disrespected, I assume you are as actively engaged in stopping all forms of it from being used on clothing, bedding or drapery, a receptacle for receiving, holding, carry or delivery anything, or being used in any kind of advertising (just three examples of the United States Flag Code – Showing Respect for the Flag).
You can be offended by the protest, and if that is your only take-away from it, so be it. I am more offended about police brutality and systemic oppression, but each to their own – and I say that with the deepest sadness because I know that there will be some people who simply cannot be awoken beyond their own offended nature to be someone who wants to improve things.
The players, whether you agree or not, are exercising their Constitutionally protected rights. It’s a slippery slope if the narrative starts to turn to who is or isn’t protected by what this country is supposed to represent.
The fact that no real talk of policy change, or what can be done to stop police brutality, and how to disempower any system that exists that is used to unjustly control people, is why the ‘Take a Knee’ protests continue. A good first step, as outlined in the informative interview Eric Reid (San Francisco 49ers) gave on ‘The View’ (video above) is to create policy change, or legislative action that police “… should not be able to use lethal force when a citizen is unarmed.” And that rigorous justice ensues if that does happen. That is a simple start.
If you want to stop being offended by people taking a knee during the anthem, then maybe engage in the changes that those people seek so they don’t have to.