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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Carl Ephriam Rice, World War II Memoirs: December 1st, 1941

Transcript of the first entry of my paternal grandfather’s memoirs from World War 2 in the Philippines. All parenthesis in red are mine. 

RECORD OF THAT FATEFUL PERIOD OF HISTORY 
December 1, 1941 to August 23rd, 1945 
THE GREAT WORLD WAR 2, AS IT AFFECTED OUR FAMILY.

Dec. 1, 1941- We are living at 1235; #1 Interior, Leveriza Street, Malate District, Manila, just off Harrison Park, the Yacht Club and Dewey Boulevard (now Roxas Boulevard; this location is basically in the heart of Manila). We live in a small five room chalet, with yard in which are Guava, Santol, Mango, and Banana trees, also oleander and hibiscus bushes, cadena de amour vines cover the porch. There are nine of us in the Family, i.e.; Dad, CARL E. RICE (the author of this diary; referring to himself in the third person in this instance), age 64 (meaning he was born in 1877; unusual indeed for me to be barely two generations removed from the Civil War); Mama, Maria Salvador Rice, age 32 (yes, there was a 32 year age difference between my paternal grandfather and grandmother); Charles Ephriam, 15 (and yes, they had their first child when my grandfather was 49 and she 17; they were married the following year), in first year high school, Bordner public school; Robert Henry, age 14, in eighth grade, same school; Arthur Calvin, age 11, in fifth grade same school; Mary Eleanora (eventually goes by just “Ellen”), age 6, in first grade, same school; Norma, age 4; and James William (my father); age 2 (meaning my grandfather was in his sixties when my dad was born); also Magdelana R. Collins, age 16, whom I have cared for since the death of her father Wilkie Collins, she is working at the Bata Shoe Store on the Escolta, and is also an emergency nurse. I am retired from the Federal Civil Service, receiving $95.00 annuity per month ($1,557.73 in 2016 dollars), receive $50.00 per month ($819.86/2016) Spanish War Pension (meaning he served as a young man in that war, which is how he came to the Philippines in the first place). I also am administrator for the Estate of Wilkie Collins, and own half of the land of the estate in Castilla, Sorsogon Prov., which so far is a losing proposition because there are no ships available to take our copra to the USA.

I have been in Sternberg General Hospital for several days for Medical examination prior to re-entering the Civil Service; am in the ward assigned the U.S. Veterans Administration for use of Spanish War Veterans; many old vets in here, mostly filipinos; with me are William “Buck” Taylor, Messenger; and Jake Selzer;—my family come to see me nearly every day; also the families of Taylor and Selzer come. I AM NOT SICK—and Doc. says wishes to take some tests over again, but will sure let me out Saturday, the 6th. I eat at the hospital mess and better food cannot be served in any Hotel in Manila. The nurses are very efficient and the Doctors are also; the hospital is full of soldiers, many with injuries received in training for coming war which will probably come in January or February (remember, this entry is December 1st, just days from Pearl Harbor). I am anxious to get out of the hospital and get back in the Service, as Chief Clerk Wilson and Col. Brezina the Department Q.M. (quartermaster) want me as soon as possible. Every day the papers show War is coming closer. If I can I will send Mama (Maria) and the younger children down to the farm for safety.

Carl Ephriam Rice - WW2 Memoirs Pg 1
Hand-typed page from Carl E. Rice’s WW2 Memoir; presumably taken from hand-written notes during the war before being transcribed after the war in Manhattan, Kansas circa fall 1945.