As white people, we tend to only support black voices when it’s convenient to us. Once our feelings, our actions, our lives, our convenience, must be modified for justice, we throw in the towel and declare the oppressed are being “disrespectful.” That they are in the wrong. And we default, once again, to believing that our privilege gives us the authority to make the final judgment on matters of equality.
Newsflash: all of our arguments, no matter what they are, will never be more important than the fight for justice and equality.
Let’s break down some of the arguments:
“Kneeling is insulting to veterans. A lot of people are offended.” A lot of people are hurt daily by systems of oppression, but I guess that’s not as important, right? While it’s a shame that some people may misinterpret the protest, their misinterpretation doesn’t change the actual intent and meaning of the protest, which Eric Reid and Colin Kaepernick have clearly spelled out for the public time and time again.
And let’s not forget that the American flag isn’t a symbol of veterans to begin with — each branch of the military has its own flag to represent veterans, and there’s been no kneeling before these flags.
“They get paid millions of dollars to play a sport they love.” Correct. But no amount of money changes the color of your skin. At the end of the day, when these guys go home, they’re still black. Anywhere they go, they’re still black. And as citizens of America, they have a right to speak up for others who may not have a voice or a platform to do so. (This explanation doesn’t even begin to cover the misguided idea that black Americans “owe” something to white America; but I digress.)
“The American flag has nothing to do with racial oppression.” In fact, it has a lot to do with it. The flag is a symbol of our country, and our country claims “liberty and justice for all,” yet actively upholds systems of racial inequality. They couldn’t be more connected than that.
“There’s a better way to protest.” Here’s the thing, as the oppressors (aka white people), we don’t get to decide how the oppressed (aka POC) go about their fight for justice. The oppressed won’t be less oppressed by “being nice” to their oppressors — the oppressors will just be less angry. How does this solve the problem? (An analogy, if that’s not making sense: an abusive husband is still an abusive husband, even if the abused wife is nice to him. The power dynamics don’t change.)
Let’s be clear: the feelings of those in power don’t really matter when POC are being exploited by the principles of whiteness— because essentially, what we’re saying is our feelings are more important than their freedom. Are you okay with that? I’m not. So instead of arguing about whether or not they’re doing it “right” from “our” perspective, we need to listen and respond with solidarity and love.
We need to stop questioning black voices and pretending ours are the most significant.
We have to decide if we are patriotic to a fault or if we are self-aware enough to step back and lead with empathy. What is more important to us — nationalism or freedom? Order or justice? Pride or humility?
How can we stand for a flag that doesn’t yet stand for all of us?
It’s OUR job to bring unity. Let’s unite with those who speak for equality instead of arguing semantics with them. The only way we can solve our nation’s problem is by bringing awareness to it and working to fix it. Ignorance and control have never succeeded in progress, only the defense of harmful, inhumane principles.