Black Athletes and the National Anthem: Or…Making White Folk Uncomfortable

I’ve managed to avoid really getting into political posts recently, with the occasional exception of humorous remarks about Trump and a few other issues. I realize how passionate some people are about Trump and probably moreso worked up in their disdain for Hillary Clinton. And that’s fine. But I’ve actually had people I considered good friends at one point or other de-friend me on Facebook, evidently because they didn’t like what I was saying or how I was saying it. It sucked and it made me pull back on making political posts because, frankly, it’s just not worth it to lose friends simply because have different political views.

And I’ve posted at length on this particular topic before—black athletes kneeling during the National Anthem…but hearing what this athlete, Michael Rose-Ivey, at the University of Nebraska, has gone through since he and two of his teammates kneeled in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick during the National Anthem of a recent football game really made me angry. The N-word??? He should be lynched before the National Anthem at the next game???? (Here is the link: http://www.rawstory.com/2016/09/fans-wanted-me-hung-before-the-anthem-emotional-nebraska-football-player-reveals-racist-threats/comments/#disqus)

Seriously: WHAT IS IT about a person who doesn’t adhere to this proscribed etiquette about our nation’s anthem that enrages people to make death threats and resort to name calling, and namely, using the N-word??? I want to know. Watch the video linked here, or just read the quotes in the article, at least. This isn’t a person who “hates” America. This isn’t a person who should just “keep his mouth shut”. This isn’t a person who should be “grateful” he’s got a scholarship and be content to quietly keep all of you white folk entertained with his athletic prowess. This is a person, and this is a people, who I believe are sincere in their angst over injustices Black America has endured throughout this country’s history.

And please, just shut the fuck up about Chicago in your inevitable response. “But, but, but, but what about Chicago and black on black crime!!!! Why don’t they kneel against that??? Chicago, I tell you!!! CHICAGO!!!! CHICAGO!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’M AN ANGRY WHITE MAN TELLING BLACK PEOPLE HOW TO PRIORITIZE!!!! CHICAGOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!”

Okay, deep breath, Brian…

It’s been my observation that the VAST MAJORITY of people expressing “outrage” over black athletes kneeling during the National Anthem are WHITE. And I say VAST MAJORITY because I’m sure some fuck is out there right now ready to link to some black conservative who agrees with them. Don’t bother. That’s the exception, not the rule. There’s just no denying the indignant response of certain white people when they see black people not adhering to what they see as “acceptable” behavior toward our Nation’s symbols. I mean, I get it: we as white people want to believe we’ve righted the wrongs of our ancestors when Lincoln freed the slaves, or when the Civil Rights Act was legislated, or when Barack Obama was elected President. Discovering that there’s still work to be done when it comes to race relations and being reminded that ours is not nearly the perfect union we imagine it to be can be unsettling. But try empathizing or seeing America through their eyes. These black athletes who are kneeling aren’t committing crimes, their not cheating in school, they—to me, at least—seem very thoughtful and sincere. And while I’ll never pretend to “feel their pain” or understand what it’s like to be Black in America, I accept their sincerity and their frustration. If kneeling during the National Anthem is a means by which they choose to facilitate an important discussion in this country, I PRAISE THEM. If I had half a nerve, I would kneel in solidarity with them the next time I was in public during the National Anthem.

And wouldn’t that be a grand experience. Even worse than a black person kneeling during the National Anthem, but a traitor to my own race, eh?

I’ll be honest, I’ve not been comfortable with what I see as “patriot shaming”, i.e., calling someone out because they are not “properly” honoring the symbols of this Nation. “Are you standing straight enough??? TRAITOR!!!” “Is your hand on your heart? TRAITOR!!!!” “Are you facing in the right direction? TRAITOR!!!!”  Patriotism should come from within, not be imposed from without. Try asking 1930s Germany how that turned out.

Alright. I think I’m done. If this offends you, it offends you. I’d prefer you not unfriend me, but if you can’t handle my passion on this issue, so be it. I’m just asking you to consider that black athletes have a legitimate motive for their actions in kneeling during the National Anthem. It does NOT warrant death threats or the N-word. They shouldn’t just “shut up” and be “grateful”; they shouldn’t have to refrain from making YOU feel uncomfortable about your country.

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