First and foremost, I love America and I am blessed to live in this nation. I like American History, the American flag, the American songs. The 4th of July is my 2nd favorite holiday, only to be beaten by Christmas. Is America perfect? Nope.
I hope you’ll understand where I’m coming from, beloved reader. Unity and healing are my passions. We can’t keep needlessly battling each other while we die from our own festering wounds.
I’m going to address 2 elephants in the room; the topics we are aware of but don’t want to talk about. They are racial injustice and nationalism.
Racial injustice combines two words: racism and injustice. Racism is the belief rooted in hatred that says one is superior or inferior to another because of skin color. Injustice is dishonesty, unfairness, and partiality. Therefore, Racial Injustice consists of acts of dishonesty or unfairness done to someone or a group of people based on their skin color, those acts ranging anywhere from lying to murder.
I also need to address nationalism. There’s a difference between patriotism and nationalism. Patriotism is a love for one’s country. You can be proud to be an American; there’s nothing wrong with that. Nationalism, on the other hand, is patriotism’s evil brother. Nationalism is patriotism unhinged and extremified. Nationalism says one nation is supreme over others; everyone else must kneel and pay homage or face the consequences.
So you have racial supremacy and national supremacy. Yikes.
Sunday, September 24 was another chill day, until the NFL. While I do enjoy football from time to time (Go Dolphins!), I seem to keep coming across the same narrative: players kneel, sit, stand arm-in-arm, or not even come out of the locker room during the national anthem as a sign of protest.
(By the way, NFL didn’t require players to be present on the field when the national anthem played until 2009. That’s not the point, however.)
Disgust and disappointment become anger and rage as social media becomes another verbal wildfire, with gasoline being poured on every side. You’d think we would have a break from this kind of stuff, right? But we come back to the divisive issue of race relations, and we all know that a house divided against itself cannot stand.
(Also, just know that a group or an individual out there is trying to profit from the racial divide for their own reasons. Be aware of that.)
I read another blog about the same issue and the author said he felt like he was in the middle of a dodgeball game with his friends and family on both sides of the court, pelting each other all while trying to convince him to join their side. I feel the same way. I have people I love on both sides arguing passionately, slamming each other on the way and if I joined, I may be a great help, but I’d also feel incredibly guilty.
The anger seems justified on a surface level. “How dare you disrespect the red, white, and blue?” they scream and type. “People died for this nation and you’re spitting on that!” “You’re not grateful to live in this great country!” “You shouldn’t protest this way!” “The NFL should fire you!” “Why are you so whiny?” “If you don’t like living here, move!”
I mean, it is in the First Amendment.
Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…or the right of the people peaceably to assemble.
Freedom of speech and peaceable assembly is protected, so why the backlash? I submit to you that it’s because of nationalism. When someone reveals an issue with America, the person is seen as a threat to our “perfect” nation and must be shouted down or dealt with; when and only when the First Amendment applies to our own standards. I remember reading somewhere that when we see an argument against our core beliefs, it can register as physical pain and we will defend ourselves or we will try to explain it away.
Kaepernick and Co. nonviolently protesting during the national anthem was neither out of disrespect for America or her flag, nor was it out of contempt for veterans and those serving our country. They’re doing it because they have seen America and Injustice sleeping in the same bed. I submit to you that they also love America but they see her in need of healing. Pointing out flaws in love and doing something about it leads to healing, which is a painful process. But, we are experts at hiding our pain while inflicting it on others.
What is the big why of protesting? Why are people like Kaepernick and Co. not willing to stand and salute for the anthem? Why is #TakeAKnee trending? What is the purpose of their actions?
(Christians, I know you mean well when you say that everyone should take both knees in prayer. There is a time and a place for everything. While it sounds great, you’re not helping.)
Protesting says there is something wrong and it needs to be fixed. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi both believed in nonviolent and peaceful protesting. Good protesting is a cry of a people that wakes the public to the injustice keeping them captive without using violence. The problem is that people who are used to sleeping see it as more of an annoyance and an inconvenience. No one likes to be woken up in the middle of a very good dream after all. It’s like the old cartoons where someone is trying to sleep but he keeps dealing with yowling and singing cats. It almost makes you want to throw a boot at them.
Kaepernick and Co. know this. They are trying to get your attention to the racial tensions and violence in America, the “land of the free.” They know that being peaceful is the best way; violence ruins a protest’s cause.
But you don’t see that. What you see is a bunch of disgruntled, unappreciative, overpaid, attention-seeking “Americans” who supposedly hate our nation. Your nationalism is showing, and it’s blinding you to reality. Therefore, you make commitments to boycotting the NFL and doing your best to urge others to do the same.
You’re worshipping America again.
Guys, ISIS hates our nation. North Korea hates our nation. Iran hates our nation. I don’t know if Russia likes us or not. We still need to pay China back. I’m pretty sure people in our nation hate us too and love to see us divided. They are our main concerns, not people like Kaepernick and Co.
What you’re really telling these protestors is that racism is normal and part of the American life to non-whites, or that racial injustice is a figment of their imagination. You’re really telling them that their lives don’t matter. You’re really telling them that they make you uncomfortable. You’re treating them the same way people treat those with a mental illness; telling them to stop being so dramatic and getting over their “imagined” problems. You’re really telling them that people like Trayvon Martin and Philando Castile deserved to die because they looked like a threat and/or had a criminal rap sheet.
I really don’t think you care at all about racial injustice because you’re not at the receiving end of it. Instead, you become experts, judges, juries, and executioners. I’m not apologizing for my firm tone here. As I say to my friends on lighter occasions, “I’m 1000% done.”
Understand that my words are out of love and frustration. A lot of us black people are upstanding citizens, even community pillars. A lot of us are kind and successful. We’re not looking for special treatment. We’re not all lazy, incompetent, mumble-rapping, sex-crazed, criminal record holding, entitled people on welfare (everything most Americans, and conservatives, are offended by). We’re not looking for war or violence.
I don’t want to have to tell my future family to “be safe” or to fear for my life. I want my future family to grow and thrive out here in America.
We want someone to listen to us. We want to be understood. We want you to know our pain.
Honestly, we are great at sympathy, but we suck at empathy. Sympathy is just feeling sorry for someone and their situation, and then moving on with their lives. Empathy is more than that; it involves feeling what the other person is feeling and it moves them to get their hands dirty to help them in their time of need. Empathy is from a Greek word meaning “to suffer with.”
Before Jesus started the Parable of the Good Samaritan, someone asked Him what was the greatest commandment. Jesus responded by saying to love God with everything and to love your neighbor as yourself. Then the guy asks, “Who is my neighbor?” In other words, “Jesus, tell me who my neighbor is so I can dismiss everyone else. Whom can I selectively love?”
In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, a guy walked down a road and was attacked by robbers and left for dead. Both a Levite and a Priest walk by, but they, not wanting to get their hands dirty for their own reasons, pass by the other way. But a Samaritan sees him, and has compassion on him. He felt the guy’s pain, he suffered with him, and he also did something about it. The Samaritan bandaged him up, treated him and put him up in an inn, paying for all costs as he recovered.
We best discover empathy when we are in person, face-to-face with the hurting; when we encounter our neighbors. Let them speak and tell you their stories. Don’t dismiss what they’re going through. Put yourself in their shoes and feel what they feel. And finally, find a way to do something about it. You may disagree, but at least you’re listening.
Listen much, touch gently, and speak when needed – Words can be encouraging, but really what we desire is your concern and to know that you love us. – A student on the events at Virginia Tech
People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. – Paraphrase from my Discipleship Ministry class
Racism has lasted for what seems like an eternity. Slavery has lasted for generations, but came to an official close with the end of the Civil War and the events of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Underground Railroad, Juneteenth, and the 13th-15th Amendments. Racial oppression continued with the Black Codes, Plessy v. Ferguson, and the Jim Crow era. Though there has been widespread racial integration, there are still people out there who are convinced of the idea of white supremacy and it’s constantly being passed down to this day. It’s sad, honestly.
(Also, can everyone – black, white, all people – please drop the n-word?)
Folks, don’t let nationalism cloud your judgment or empathy. Don’t let it blind you to the people around you. Nationalism, like any worshipped idol, will require a sacrifice and a price. The more you give, the more it takes and never gives back.
And as for Kaepernick and Co., they’re going to keep fighting for what they believe in and no one is going to stop them! Racism and racial injustice will not win!
I long to see the ethnic walls shattered and that we would unconditionally love one another regardless of race!
Part Two is coming and will be more about nationalism and the Church.
A people who will not acknowledge the sins of their nation are doomed to turn a blind eye to injustice. A people who cannot separate the identity of their nation from the sins of their nation are doomed to undermine the good of their nation. – Caitlin Bassett
Until next time, I’m stepping off my soapbox. Remain hidden in the shadow of His wings,
– Jon Pannell
P.S. – Let’s talk if you disagree. Let’s not scream at each other or prove another wrong.