Monday, September 25, 2017

For my white folks

This is for my fellow white folks. I'm speaking to you because I'm one of you, and while no two life experiences are the same, we likely have a lot more in common than we have with people of color.
First of all, we need to stop telling people there's only one right way to be angry. As a woman, I've had lots of other people tell me that I'm doing angry wrong - especially by men, right ladies? Having my feelings mansplained to me gets stuck in my craw like none other. There is one surefire way to make someone who is already angry completely livid and that's to tell them their feelings are wrong or invalid. So, please let's stop white-splaining emotions to others. It's not a good look and it's seriously not helping anyone or anything.
Second, can we give it a rest with the uproar about people taking a knee? After every riot and every demonstration that turns violent, we love to say that violence de-legitimizes your cause and people would better take notice and respond if it had just been a peaceful protest. It is true; riots devolve into violence and looting by people who don't necessarily care about the cause and they rarely bring about positive change. The situation in the NFL with players taking a knee during the national anthem is the very definition of peaceful protest. And yet, you still scream that they are doing it wrong. If peaceful protest is acceptable, then people peacefully protesting something you don't agree with should STILL be acceptable.
"BUT THE FLAG CODE!!!"
Third, we've all seen the flag code posted recently. It is true that those taking a knee are in violation of the flag code. But if you're going to boycott the NFL, you need to boycott everyone who is violating the flag code. So please, be looking very seriously at your home, your belongings, your t shirt collection and those same items belonging to every team you support, every NASCAR driver you cheer for, every entertainer/artist/musician you support, and make sure they aren't violating the flag code either. If they are, you should boycott them and share that on social media just as frequently as you share your boycott for the NFL. Fair is fair.
The flag code is a thing that was written to ensure proper treatment of the flag. The flag is just a thing, a symbol. While it is a powerful and important symbol of many wonderful things about our history as a country, it is NOT America itself. More American than the flag are the ideals this country is founded on.
The first freedom that individuals were guaranteed by our founders was freedom of speech. It was that important that our country not dictate beliefs to its citizens. Most people don't even know where to find the flag code (I wouldn't have known what document it was published in without Google), but we all know that the Bill of Rights followed the Constitution. We have the Declaration of Independence signed in 1776, the Constitution signed in 1787, the Bill of Rights added to the constitution in 1791.
Amendment ICongress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and TO PETITION THE GOVERNMENT FOR A REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES.(all caps mine)
The flag code didn't exist until 1923 and wasn't adopted by Congress until 1942. Originally, the flag code was created for the military; it wasn't adopted for civilian use until 19 years later. It took us over 150 years to get around to legislating how to treat the flag, while it only took us 5 years to confirm free speech (while fighting an unprecedented war between a colony and their parent nation). Think on that for a minute.
If you listen, the people taking knees have grievances, grievances with the government, local, state and federal. This is the very essence of what this amendment protects.
Citizenship in this country is NOT contingent on patriotism in any form, y'all. We would all like to think that everyone living here is proud to do so. But it is not illegal to be upset with the state of things in your country. How many of us are, in one way or another, concerned or angry about the state of our nation?
And finally, those who are calling for the suspension or firing of any NFL player who does not stand for the national anthem (including our President), y'all need to hush. These players are not refusing to play. Playing is their job and they are fulfilling their job requirements to the best of their abilities. For those who like to be realistic about the legal side of things, any NFL owner firing players over this issue is likely to be sued and lose. If multiple owners would follow all the ranting and all fire players who were protesting the national anthem, there would likely be a suit filed by the NFLPA against the league itself. And the league would lose. This exact scenario is addressed in the link above and there is plenty of legal precedent to support that decision.
So if you're a white person like me and you have strong feelings on this issue, that is fine. Your strong feelings are just as protected as those NFL players'. But if you want to be sure you're not coming off as a racist, a bigot, a hypocrite or a mindless follower of the things our Commander in Chief says to rile a crowd that aren't necessarily based in our country's principles, here's the short list of things you can do:
  • Stop white-splaining.
  • Recognize the rightful peaceful protests of others, even if you don't agree.
  • Realize that the Bill of Rights trumps the Flag Code.
  • If you don't want to bring attention to the way these players are protesting, you are free not to watch the NFL and free not to give them more attention by posting all over your social media about how you are boycotting.   
Maybe if we all stop yelling about how others are doing it wrong, we could listen to what these athletes are saying and better see how to fix their grievance, rather than threaten them for non-compliance.

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If you choose to comment, please keep your comments respectful.  I will not hesitate to delete anything I deem hateful.

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