At a recent campaign rally in Alabama, the current President of the United States, Donald Trump, called African American football players who kneeled during the national anthem “sons of b—.” Who he was endorsing and for what position is irrelevant now. His candidate lost but a kind of radical patriotism has gained newfound momentum and energy. Political pundits argue that the President is talking to his base, that he is just saying what millions of Americans are thinking: “Shut up and play football.”
While Colin Kaepernick was kneeling to draw attention to the merciless killing of unarmed African American citizens by police officers, the President has polarized the country by suggesting that they were anti- flag and anti- military. It was no longer about the dead bodies of African American that lay in city streets but the active, reserve, veteran and deceased members of our military. While countless persons spoke up to correct the narrative, Marvin L. Boatwright, a US Army veteran’s drove the point home loud and clear. He kneeled in full uniform while holding the American flag as Mr. Trump’s motorcade passed by.
Because it has never been about the American flag, accept to challenge Americans to raise the standard of our existence to the standard it represents.
But, this is not the first time African Americans have protested. The Black Power Salute at the 1968 Olympics and Muhammed Ali’s refusal to serve in the Vietnam War are not a distant memory. It is rather that these athletes would protest at all. Persons have argued that they make millions of dollars to play football, that they have nothing to complain about, that they should be grateful to live in America. Somehow, money insulates them from social ills or maybe the new silver spoon in their mouths should prevent them from protesting.
Because you can’t be an athlete and an activist at the same time. Because if persons don’t stand for the American flag and put their hands on their hearts, then they are un- American. It is again being argued that there is only one way to be American. If you don’t behave like us and if don’t like our rules, then you can leave our country.
African Americans hear this anytime there is a disagreement on American values and their practice. There is no mention of kidnapping and enslavement, that the story of African Americans is one of the deepest betrayals of humanity the world has ever known, that the only “native Americans” are those indigenous to it. It seems that African Americans should be glad to be in the position that we are in, that we are ungrateful, that we owe America some unspoken debt for our freedom. While we are “free at last” in America, every human being is made free, born free. We are free at first.
Still, we should be content with the progress we’ve made. Because at least, we are not slaves, right? We ought to be grateful for the Emancipation Proclamation.
It sounds like we are Americans by consensus. By reason of “whiteness,” these persons are more American. Furthermore, they are judges of who is American and who is not. Salute the flag or you are out. Oddly enough, the salute mirrored that of Hitler before 1942.
Rev. Dr. Barber, “architect” of the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina and the pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church, called them “sons of justice.” They protested silently and were met with disapproval from the President of the United States. Black Lives Matter protested in city streets with a permit and they were considered troublemakers. Jamele Hill wrote on social media about her disapproval of the President on her personal time and persons asked for her resignation from ESPN. It seems that it is not a matter of how or where African Americans voice discontent. It is troubling that they protest at all.
Just be grateful. Just do your job. Just shut up and play football.
Like American nationalism, football is a religion in America. When the two are combined, a social “rapture” is inevitable. People take sides and those who don’t agree will be left behind. The NFL responded in support of its players and many teams stood arm in arm as a show of unity. But, what about the Church?
Persons say they would have marched with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. if they were alive during the Civil Rights movement. Well, history is repeating itself. The Church should take a knee again with Colin Kaepernick and in solidarity with the poor, oppressed and marginalized.
Where are the hands and feet, the knees of Christ now?