Many in American society have expressed opinions verbally or in writing about NFL players “taking a knee” during the National Anthem. Depending on who you talk with, this posture of protest is either seen as a posture of protest against inequality in this country, or it is seen as showing disrespect for the American flag. The protest stance of “taking a knee with a hand over the heart” during the National Anthem has been explained again and again by those participating as a respectful way of protesting injustice in the treatment of African Americans in our nation which proclaims the promise of “liberty and justice for all.” It non-violently and respectfully calls attention to the fact that the goal of equality is not yet realized in American society and that we must continue to work together toward achieving that goal.
There are also many Americans who feel that not standing for the National Anthem disrespects the flag, our country and those who have given their lives to defend it. Some who take this position say they agree with people’s right to protest, but not this particular way of protesting. Then there are those that ignore or are simply not aware of the real purpose for “taking a knee.” They only see it as gesture of disrespect and showing “ungratefulness” to a country that has “allowed” these players to have so much success.
I wonder about this view of showing “disrespect” by kneeling on one knee during the National Anthem in protest. Is it also disrespectful to fly a Confederate flag which symbolizes division and an historic act of treason? Is it disrespectful when an African American person has a higher chance of losing their life in encounters with police? It is disrespectful when a person has a higher chance of being treated unjustly and being affected by generational poverty because of ethnicity or the color of their skin? What seems more “disrespectful” to me is the racialized injustice that continues to be tolerated today. It also seems that there is still the need for protests.
The protest movements of the Civil Rights era are now viewed by the majority of Americans as essential to the pursuit of racial equality in the United States. However, this positive perspective of the Civil Rights protest movement has not always been the case. To quote an informative article on this topic from the Washington Post, “America has a long history of resisting civil rights protesters” before acknowledging that these protests are effective in advancing the cause of racial equality. You can find the full article here and it would be worth taking the time to read.
Non-violent protesting is a time-tested method to affect change and, at its core, is honoring and respecting every human being.
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