And although the NFL will fine any player who publicly protests during the national anthem, we’re already seeing more of it – highly paid professional football players acting in a manner we find disrespectful; and us getting really angry about it.
But I don’t think we understand what it is that we’re really angry about.
Hang with me here as I do my best to explain.
Say, hypothetically, that the US passed a law allowing parents to beat their children. Slapping, punching, screaming, starving – all became legal. And because of the good and bad of social media, we’d be daily bombarded with images of abused children.
And there’d be nothing any of us could do about it.
Or say that Hilary was president, and she found a way to ban all public expressions of Christianity – not any other religion, just Christianity. No more t-shirts, tattoos, jewelry. No more talking about Jesus in bars or with co-workers No more Easter Sunday outdoor services, small-group Bible studies, Christian youth camps, etc.
So, NFL players start taking a knee during our national anthem because they feel like they can’t, in good conscious, stand as everyone sings about America.
Would that bother you? Would that break your mind?
Of course not.
They’d be heroes.
We’d support them if they were protesting something we valued.
But they’re not, and that makes us mad.
Our problem with the NFL protests isn’t that taking a knee is disrespectful to our flag and country. What’s making us mad is that we believe, with every fiber of our being, that there’s nothing to protest.
Football isn’t the only place this is happening.
Recently, lots of folks got mad when Donald Trump announced that black unemployment was at an all-time low (which is true) and everyone stood up to clap, except for most of the black people in the crowd. They sat in protest.
My social media feed lit up with people saying things like “how dare they,” and “they don’t know how good they have it.”
Fox News interviewed a few spokespeople from the black community to assure us that these people should have celebrated.
This was proof to so many that blacks in the US are entitled, whiny, divisive malcontents.
But most white people I know can’t articulate why these black people didn’t stand.
Black unemployment has always been twice that of white unemployment – always – since we started measuring employment statistics long ago. No matter how educated or empowered black people become, or whatever good comes from affirmative action, blacks will always be 100% less employable than whites.
I wouldn’t have stood up either.
When NFL players kneel, they’re convinced that our systems – our economic systems, our educational systems, our law enforcement systems, our economic systems – are rigged in favor of whites at significant cost to non-whites.
And we get mad because we’re firmly convinced that they are dead wrong. Sure, we’ve got problems with racism in the US, but it’s not that bad.
If that’s how you approach all of this – If you believe that non-white NFL players have nothing significant to protest, you simply haven’t done your homework.
There is a MOUNTAIN of statistics that support the fact that our systems are white-skewed at the expense of non-whites. Turns out there actually is something to protest. Here’s an article that puts a lot of this in one place, with links to sources. It’s a great place to start if you haven’t been exposed to any of this.
But despite the fact that these statistics, studies, research etc. have been around for the last 20 years, us white Christians keep finding creative ways to ignore them. So, whenever a non-white cries “injustice,” white people, especially white Christians, turn a blind eye. That’s what we’ve always done.
Have you noticed that, with very rare exception, it’s white people that get the most angry about the protests? People that have no experience with racism whatsoever, people that are more likely to get hired when the economy’s good, people that are less likely to get fired when it’s bad, people who are less likely to be incarcerated, etc., all say “there’s not a problem here.”
I have white friends who would say, “hold on a minute, white people are the victims of racism all the time.” A Facebook friend recently commented that any form of discrimination where a black person is chosen over a white person is racism.
That’s not racism…
Racism says “there’s something wrong with a person because of the color of their skin.” Affirmative action, even in it’s most broken expression doesn’t do that. You can call it wrong if you want to, but you can’t call it racist.
We don’t know what racism is. We have no experience with it. If we did, we’d love it when our NFL stars and others protested. We’d march. We’d organize. We’d fight.
But because we don’t understand, we vilify those that do, especially the ones who take a stand on their knee.
And we get angry. We call it righteous anger, but rest assured, 99% of the time, anger is far from righteous.
As someone who does an OK job at following Jesus, and as a former pastor who still mentors people from time to time, it’s become clear that the places we’re angry are the places we’re the most broken, the places where we need to be begging Jesus for help.
If these protests are making you mad, you’ve got some work to do.
If you’re a Christian, what would it hurt to pray to Jesus, “Am I missing something here?” Or surrender to Him, “You can do whatever you want to me, just make sure that I’m not on the wrong side of this thing.” Even the great King David prayed that God would protect him from himself.
But we don’t pray that. Why would we? There’s not a problem here.
Unless you’re willing to start listening, these protests are going to keep ruining your Monday nights, because there is a problem here. A big one. And it’s not going anywhere until the people who have all the power at the expense of the people who don’t, do something about it.
I know, when people start talking about “white privilege,” it makes us angry. White privilege isn’t a thing right?
That’s what you believe when you haven’t done your homework.
At least do your homework so that, when people like me start ranting, you can have a conversation, a debate, maybe the two of us can get somewhere we haven’t been before. But this homework will complicate the problem of knee-taking at football games.
It’ll make it harder to point fingers and run to simple, black and white, judgmental solutions that require little more than an emotional response and some heated social media ranting.