What is the right way to make a stand for something? To make a statement that attention needs to be brought to an injustice?
Just because I don’t understand a protest or because I don’t relate to the cause does not make it necessarily right or wrong. Instead of jumping to the conclusion and assuming I know the heart of a man, I’d rather ask them personally. I’d rather ask someone who has actually experienced racial profiling or prejudice - “What happened to you? How did that feel? How do we best raise awareness and fight the injustice?"
I would say violence isn’t the way. Hateful speech isn’t the way. Finger pointing isn’t the way. Saying nothing isn’t the way. I will admit, taking a knee doesn’t initially make sense to me – personally, I don’t understand why someone would kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality against the black community. I don’t see how someone would draw an immediate connection between the two. Nor would I initially think someone was blatantly disrespecting the flag and what it stands for. I honestly would just ask myself the question, “Why is he doing that? Why is he doing something that is different than what everyone else is doing and different than what has always been done?” – He has grabbed my attention, and the attention of a nation.
KNEELING VS STANDING
Funny thing is, kneeling is actually a form of showing respect. You kneel when you pray and when you ask someone to marry you. Maybe Colin Kaepernick’s heart and intention was never to show disrespect, but to be different. To stand out. Not in a hateful way. Not in a disrespectful, violent or vile show of protest, but to say – “I’m doing something different for a reason, but you’ll have to ask me ‘why?’ to know. You’ll have to relate with me – I want to say something. Notice me and let me have a voice so I can bring awareness to this issue that my heart breaks for.”
I have a few challenges for my fellow man. I would dare to ask you - do you put your hand over your heart and sing the national anthem when you are watching a game at home – EVERY time? I know some do. But I know a lot who don’t. Are you sitting on the sofa? Are you talking or eating or using the restroom? Would that not also be considered disrespectful? Or is it different only because you are sitting at home? Sitting at home gives you a free pass? Is it only considered disrespectful because he’s using his platform to draw attention and awareness? If you so respect the national anthem, then any time it sounds and the flag waves, would you not be standing, hand over heart?
My next challenge is this: have you ever been singled out or marginalized because of your skin color or race? Are you yourself white and making a judgement about "The Kneelers’" motives? If you are white, I would dare to say that you cannot wholly relate to what the black community has experienced (and I’m not talking about the far-past, but the prejudice they still experience today).
The only way you would have any idea is if you set your fight aside, your pride aside, and ask them. Seek to understand, instead of criticize something you’ve never experienced. Ask because you care to know. Ask because you want unity in this country. So much so that you’re willing to set your pre-conceived thoughts down for one moment. Ask because someone is screaming “INJUSTICE” and you want to find out if it’s true and what you can do to stop it. If it was your own son or daughter, how would you feel?
My challenge for "The Kneelers" (and those who side with them) - just because you have freedom of speech doesn’t always mean you should always exercise it (there are SO MANY TIMES I swallow my words because some things are better left unsaid, or the timing is just not right). Just because I have the freedom to spend my money however I want doesn’t mean I should. Just because I can use my words however I want doesn’t mean I should. Time, place, and delivery are so very important. I believe we should be very intentional and good stewards of our freedoms, both speech and actions. Kneelers - continue to use your voice to fight injustice, and continue to seek ways to do so that will bring unity to this country. Share what you’ve experienced – don’t just scream injustice - share your story, then share how others can make a difference. Maybe this was Colin Kaepernick’s goal all along.
WHO IS YOUR NEIGHBOR?
How DO we raise awareness and unify this country at the same time?
I do believe there are still people who have prejudice against races, against political parties, against people in general. I believe there is still deep hate that needs to be distinguished, on both sides.
Names are called (stupid, ignorant, idiots, etc.). And feelings of despising someone we don’t personally know rear their ugly head.
I believe we should seek understanding. I believe we should seek unity. The only way that is going to happen is by getting in someone else’s shoes. Asking questions. Linking arms. Empathizing. Loving.
I feel like this is a universal truth - Behind every protest is a hurting heart. It may or may not be because they have a healthy perspective on life. It may or may not be the right way to go about protesting. They may not have all the facts. But they have their own experience. And they are hurt.
I know you know the story - There was a man badly beaten laying on the side of the road. A religious man passed by and did not help the man. Another passed and did not help him. But a Samaritan happens upon the injured man and helps him (Samaritans and Jews generally despise each other).
The point of the story is to get you to answer the question: Who is your neighbor and who are you going to be to him? Are you going to turn a blind eye? Are you going to be so quick to make judgement before taking time to put yourself in someone else’s shoes? Did Jesus' heart break more for a lack of patriotism or for injustice?
THE BRAVERY OF THE KNEEL
If I am to believe the best in my fellow man, I think Colin was doing his best. I actually think he was being brave - taking a risk on his name and career to take a stand (or should I say kneel) for an injustice. How many of us would do that? (Love this article, too.)
I truly believe that Colin knew that if he made a statement during a press conference, some would hear his message, but not enough. He also knew he was given a platform, and he wanted to use it for good. To show that there’s still work to be done.
The football field was his National Mall, and taking a knee was how he would capture America to hear his version of “I Have a Dream.” And maybe he was not as eloquent as Dr. King, and whether you agree with his method or not, you can’t argue this: he got your attention. He’s opened the floor of conversation, and in doing so, has prompted you to ask yourself the question - What am I doing to bring healing and unity to a broken country? What injustice am I standing against, or kneeling for?
DO SO FOR LOVE
So here I am – a white woman that has lived in a predominantly white community, asking the black community to share their experience. I want to know. So I can know what you’ve experienced, so my heart can break with yours, so you can share your thoughts on what part I have to play to make a change, so I can know what to anticipate my black daughter from Uganda might experience here in America. And so that I can do everything in my power so that her generation doesn’t witness the same hate and prejudice and discrimination that still exists in this one.
Whether you stand or kneel, do so for unity. Do so for love.
xo, Ali Rae Alltop