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America, Let’s Get Uncomfortable

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Peyton Barish, Senior Staff Writer

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The National Football League took steps yesterday to address the issue of players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality.  Their goal was to hopefully find a balance that would appease both sides. Instead, owners folded to the demands of the individuals on the right that make up the majority of their fan base.  It is now mandated that all players must stand for the national anthem if they are outside on the field when it is played. Those who wish to kneel must remain in the locker room for the duration of the song.  

No steps were taken to address the grievances of the players themselves, such as investigating charitable donations that could be made, or ways to improve community relations.  In fact, the President of the United States decided to utilize his power to yet again blow a racial dog-whistle claiming that if the players don’t stand, then maybe they shouldn’t be in the country. This only makes our country even more divided.

What makes this decision even worse is the hypocrisy of those on the right who claim to defend free speech and political incorrectness when it supports or defends their views, but have no problem silencing the people on the other side who are doing what they deem as one of the most politically incorrect things imaginable, kneeling for the anthem.

It’s no secret that race is an uncomfortable topic for many Americans, especially white people, but what is far more damaging is the inability for those Americans who are uncomfortable to have an honest conversation about the effects race still plays in America.  The fact that an athlete is trying to bring attention to this issue makes those on the political right so uncomfortable that they demand he must stop. Or rather to “shut up and dribble”  or here, “to shut up and tackle.”

If Colin Kaepernick had told reporters that he had kneeled “because the flag doesn’t protect the lives of those born and those unborn equally,” the Republican Party would have found their new savior.  He would have been praised across the country by every talking head on Fox News for his stance on an issue as controversial as abortion. However, Colin Kaepernick didn’t kneel for abortion, he knelt for racial injustice. He highlighted the one thing that conservatives hate talking about more than almost any other topic. It is blasphemous to these people that a million-dollar athlete can’t just be thankful for what he already has. Kaepernick’s actions are patriotism in its truest form. His willingness to criticize a nation knowing all too well that the millions of fans watching him would assail him with insults takes bravery seen by few athletes in the NFL before. The blasphemy comes not from those who kneel, but those who refuse to have a conversation with those who do.

Racial inequality is a painful truth and a painful problem to millions of Americans in this country.  Hiring discrimination, disparities in educational opportunities, and the criminal justice system are all areas where people of color struggle to have the same equal footing as their white counterparts.  Schools with minority populations have teachers of lower quality, less resources, and tend to be much bigger than the average.  Black Americans searching for a job are still held back by chains that prevent them from finding the equality they so desperately strive for.  The most egregious of these injustices is in the criminal justice system. In North Carolina, black students are arrested at 5.81 times the rate of white students. Sentencing disparities between offenders who are white, and those who are black, are the most striking of these injustices.  

Players are not kneeling without reason, it is not as though their beliefs were pulled from the depths of their imaginations. That is the very reason owners and fans want these players silenced. This country has still not had an honest conversation about racial inequality and the ways it still affects millions in this country, even in the 21st century.

Fear of the unknown has perpetrated an “us vs. them” mentality that the United States cannot continue to encourage, yet the most powerful man in the free world seeks to do just that.  These players are kneeling because their country has failed those who look like them, and the fact the owners and fans can’t see (or refuse to see) that this country is not perfect means they are systematizing this culture of failure and failing them again.

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America, Let’s Get Uncomfortable