Everyone has heard of the protests going on in the National Football League; there isn’t anyway you couldn’t have. But, if you truly have not, I will fill you in. Football players around the country have been protesting in different ways during the National Anthem that is played before the start of every football game. Players like Colin Kaepernick, Marcus Peters, Arian Foster, Kenny Stills, and Brandon Marshall, to name a few, have protested during the National Anthem. Players are either linking arms, kneeling, or raising their fists in the air. The players are doing it to either evoke change or draw attention to a problem in the United States. The reason behind these protests is because of the problem of racism and the mistreatment of African Americans in the United States. In this article, I want to peacefully and respectfully have a conversation with the reader. In no way am I trying to solve the issue that has plagued our country for hundreds of years. But, I want to address the issues and locate where they come from and what we need to do as a nation to start moving in the right direction. So, please, have an open mind and think with me through just a few issues in America that all stem from this one word: racism.
First, I just wanted to say to those few football players who have knelt during the National Anthem, soldiers have fought for our freedom and for your freedom to protest, I understand that. But, why are you choosing to protest against the very symbol of our country? You are not only disrespecting the flag, but the National Anthem of our country that has rightfully given you the opportunity to play the game you love. There are lots of other ways to provoke change in a country, but disrespecting the flag that has stood for over 300 years, is not the way to do it, in my opinion. Also, why now? You didn’t seem to have an issue five years ago, but now you do? What changed?
Next, to the players who linked arms. Props to you guys. I love this gesture. You are standing for everything a sports team should stand for in America. Unity and love for each and every single one of your teammates is awesome to see. You are not only respecting your team, but you are trying to provoke change in our country by taking a positive step in the right direction.
Now, to the players who raised their fist in the air symbolizing “Black Power.” I know you might think that the black fist might mean unity and togetherness which is what Black Lives Matters wants it to mean. But, it is a symbol identified with the Black Panther Party. The Black Panther Party is a party that is well known for violence. Also, the leader of the party just came out to say that blacks should have their own nation inside the United States in the deep south. Please tell me how that isn’t racist towards not only whites, but the other minorities that live in the south. And, seriously, choosing to disrespect your country on 9/11! Probably the worst attack on American soil, ever! Come on! Last time I checked, we were remembering the people who died that day, not looking at you and your nice gestures.
But, don’t get me wrong. America is not perfect. And, I am not saying that we have been or ever will be. But, yes, racism is still alive. But, since that word can be taken many different ways. I will try to stray away from using that word and instead use words like discrimination and prejudice towards certain people groups and demographics in America. So, what can be done and taken away from these protests? First, let’s look at why they are protesting. Colin Kaepernick in a statement to the media said why he was protesting, saying “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.” Well, let’s look at the definition of oppression which is stated as to “keep (someone) in subservience and hardship.” I am deeply sorry Colin that you feel like America is keeping your fellow African Americans in “hardship.” According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2014, 27% of African Americans are living below the poverty line. Thirty-eight percent of African American children live in poverty. Those facts are absolutely astounding and should provoke some thought. And, if you don’t feel anything from those quotes, you are not an American. But, yes, some of your fellow African Americans are living in hardship. But, in no way is America trying to keep you in hardship that way and in no way does the flag stand for that. We are not a country that is wanting to keep over ¼ of African Americans below the poverty level and over a ⅓ of kids below the poverty level. But, you aren’t the only one’s having a big number of people living below the poverty level. Twenty-six percent of Hispanics are living below the poverty level. It is a nationwide, multi-ethnic group issue. Not just whites and blacks, but every single American needs to address the issue of why we have so many people living in poverty. Why is America leading all the other developed nations in income disparity and poverty level? We need to address this issue as a country, not as specific demographic groups. We can’t just say it is one races’ fault, it is a country’s fault. Stop putting the blame on others and start trying to fix the problem together, as a country.
Trying to attack the poverty problem first starts with our families and our upbringing of kids. Why are there so many fathers running out on their families and leaving the mother to take care of it? How is that going to solve anything when we have 78% of African American families that have children living in poverty headed up by single moms. This is a big problem. We have some men who can’t seem to stay and help raise the children. We also have 29% of white children under 18 being raised by a single parent, 24% of those being a mom. Having kids that are brought up in low income homes with one parent isn’t going to help the problem. They aren’t going to have a very good chance of being able to get out of that situation. We need to change our families at home. We need to start acting like grown up men and women who don’t get scared and leave after the smallest little bump in the road in a relationship.
The other issue Colin Kaepernick raised was the issue of police officers killing “innocent” African Americans. First, Colin you are right. There are some innocent people getting killed. But, what is not helping the fact is that poor, drug ridden communities are getting noticed and some officers are associating certain crimes with a specific demographic.
Officers, almost all of you are doing an outstanding job protecting our streets and keeping law-abiding citizens safe. But, officers if you see those officers who are discriminating or judging certain groups of people, stop it. End the thought of racism in those few officers who are discriminating against certain people. Officers, I have the utmost respect for you and what you do. And, I believe almost all of you deserve that respect. But, if I or any other white person is put in the situation of compliance, and we don’t listen right away, treat us the same way you would a black person or a Hispanic person. Don’t racially profile someone and jump to certain conclusions. If they are an “innocent until proven guilty” citizen, don’t have your first reaction to shoot because they don’t comply right away or are “endangering” your safety. I respect the fact that you need to think of your safety and protection, and I believe most officers have done that well. Again, I have the utmost respect for you guys and what you do so please do not feel as if I don’t. Furthermore, as citizens and police officers, let’s try to attempt to fix this problem together. It won’t be easy, but we need to at least try.
Racism: such a tricky topic that is hard to talk about, in fact, I don’t even like using that word in this article, but we need to somehow change racist attacks and reject racist comments in this country. Where I feel racism comes into play is when we start identifying ourselves as black, white, brown, yellow, red, etc. We start defending our race when someone offends us; every race is guilty of this. We all of a sudden become easily offended and because of that, we start dividing ourselves. If we are trying to eliminate racism and discrimination against another race, then why are we still trying to find our identity in our race? This just creates division when we want to find our security and identity in our color. This type of thinking only exasperates the issues of profiling and discriminating. There shouldn’t be a specific law/s that protects one race, but protects all Americans, no matter the race.
We are all Americans. Stop demeaning and attacking one race, because honestly, that is racist in itself. I can guarantee you that there are good people in all colors and all demographics. Why can’t we all sit down together, as law-abiding Americans, and try to find a solution to the problem of discrimination against certain people groups? Let’s sit down and have conversations together as one nation and try to fix this ongoing problem.
This issue can not be fixed overnight, and I definitely don’t expect it to. These are just a few issues that stem from the idea of racism. But, my one plea to you is that you look at this issue head on and think about what am I doing or what can I do to try to make this country even better than it already is? How can I be part of the solution to this ongoing problem that our country has had to deal with since the creation of the United States? Be proactive. Do something. If someone desires true change, one doesn’t just stay silent. They speak up. So, what are you going to do to bring about true, positive change?
•Caleb Piersma, email@example.com