Week three in the NFL saw over 100 NFL players sit, kneel, skip, or find a way to protest, during the national anthem. The rise in protests come as a backlash against President Trump’s, “son of a bitch” comments, directed at mostly black protesters, while at a campaign rally in Alabama. As a group of predominately black NFL players took a knee, there was little to no surprise in public reaction from those who continue to dismiss the reasons behind these protests, with anger, vitriol, and a continual lack of empathy. Through all of the events happening over the past few months, it has become clear: the middle ground is disappearing. The social safety-net of residing in the middle ground, is quickly disappearing as well. Silence in 2017, is not only deafening, but revealing.
For many, this truth has always been reality, but the concept of a “middle ground” has been important. It’s been important for those in power, culturally and literally, to reside in a middle ground, avoiding the inner realization of their part in an unjust system. The middle ground has been important for the safety of feelings and relationships. The reality of this “middle ground” disappearing is not to evoke the concept of any culture war, but in actuality call attention that said culture war(s) are the reality black America have lived since the dawn of our freedom in this country.
Now is different. It’s not just black America, or LGBTQ community, or immigrants who have chosen to call this place home. Now, liberal white America watches the America, we in black America have witnessed since our existence. Now, there are those who call themselves conservative in nature, who are “appalled” at the President…they donated money to, and they elected. Just as much as there are those who are having their belated faux awaking with “shock”, “disgust”, or whatever synonym helps explain their self-preservation, there are those in America who stand firm. There are those who stand firm in their patriarchy, their partisanship, and their love for the office of the President. It doesn’t matter if the President continues to disrespect the position.
Life is a matter of choices which are presented to us, and currently each one of us is being presented with an unavoidable, irrevocable choice. The continuing option to support a man who has not changed, but continues to reveal himself to the public. A man who continues to give us evidence of being a racist demagogue, who presents no evidence of compassion in relation to the cultures he divides. The other option the public is presented with, is defy what is comfortable and easy, and speak up. The option to speak up against a man who thinks there are “many fine people” marching with Neo-Nazis, but thinks a black athlete who kneels is a “son of a bitch”. To speak against a man who seemingly was forced to disavow David Duke, the Ku Klux Klan, but is quick to speak out against Jemele Hill and Stephen Curry. The option to speak against a man who has implied John McCain is less than, for being a P.O.W, who has disrespected those who are handicapped, bragged about being a “pussy-grabber”, and has had numerous racially based law-suits brought against him.
There is also the option to speak against the hypocrisy of the systems which the President empowers. To call out the hypocrisy of NASCAR threatening to fire anyone who kneels during the national anthem, but seemingly are ok with the flying of the confederate flag by its fans. The option to speak against those who dismiss millionaires using their platform, but refuse to admit they never listen to the poor. The option to call out the hypocrisy of Trump himself, telling President Obama to “stick to his job”. There is the option to call out the lack of empathy, we see in our families, our “friends”, and our significant others. With these options, one thing is certain, the option of remaining silent without notice, is no longer acceptable. Your favorite television networks are realizing this, your favorite athletes, and entertainers are realizing this.
What is happening isn’t atypical, this is reality. The conversation and dialogue of racism, oppression, and injustice will only grow to become louder. This is not a conversation about party affiliation. This is not a conversation about “love of country”, “respect for office”, “respect for the flag”, or “black on black crime”. Those who bring these issues up are trying to create straw man arguments. The truth is they don’t understand, and in some ways, never truly cared anyway.
This isn’t even a conversation about freedom of speech. Many have purposefully twisted and appropriated the conversation in an attempt to distract from the real issues, forgetting why Kaepernick even decided to kneel during the anthem. It should be noted, that standing for the national anthem isn’t even mandatory, in terms of the NFL rule book. More importantly, this is now a conversation about right and wrong, and what each individual in America will decide to choose. With each day that passes, these options will continue to become more evident: the option of selfishness in our beliefs, or the option to stand by our fellow man and woman. The option of silence will only further equate to complicity. The time for comfort, with our families, with our friends, and with society, has long disappeared. Those around you will recognize you for action, or complicity. Whether you choose to accept it or not, the choice for silence…has disappeared.
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”.
Sources: CNN, NBC, New York Times, Mic, Time, The Hill, HuffPost, Deadspin, ESPN, History.com, USA Today, Military.com, Business Insider
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