White People, This Anthem Thing is Really Simple

White America,

All this NFL National Anthem stuff is really pretty simple. It always has been.

A couple of years ago, Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem to leverage his platform and visibility and turn our collective attention toward the injustices people of color experience as a daily occurrence here in this country. Other players followed; some kneeling, others sitting down or locking arms or raising a fist in the air.

They silently, respectfully, stoically made an appeal to our shared compassion on behalf of people who do not have a voice.

That was it.
These players told us as much.
Over and over again they told us why they were doing this.
They asked us to consider whether the freedoms we sing about are available to everyone, whether the flags we so readily wave are more than ceremonial.

This should have been enough.

We should have simply listened to them then.
We should have taken a good, hard look in the mirror.
We should have faced our still growing legacy of institutional racism and mass incarceration.
We should have asked the tough questions about the way we hire, train, and police the conduct of law enforcement.
We should have told these players that we hear them and that we are as grieved about the premature deaths of young black men as they are.

Sadly we didn’t do these things, largely because our President doesn’t care much for people of color who stand up (or kneel down) for themselves. It isn’t good for business—when business is about barriers.

Donald Trump changed the narrative of NFL player protests by intentionally lying about their motives, positioning them as traitors, and counting on his white base to lap up the toxic snake oil.

He then strong armed cowardly NFL owners who failed the players by caving to him, by demanding a display of Patriotism, and allowing the league to financially penalize any player for taking a knee.

He counted on Republican politicians (having already proven themselves bereft of spines and balls) to echo the anti-American smear campaign—and they were more than happy to oblige because it intoxicates their constituencies.

Trump did what he’s done throughout the campaign, election, and his Presidency: he exploited easily manipulated, angry white people looking for someone to ratify their prejudice and consent to their enmity and give them an excuse to feel outraged.

He purposefully used his position of power to try and steamroll people of color asking to be treated equally, into silence—and in the process, he and his supporters proved exactly why these athletes were kneeling to begin with.

This predatory President, spineless NFL owners, and complicit white fans treating players like expendable animals—all conspired to made Colin Kaepernick’s point for him. (In a completely unrelated matter, the quarterback still hasn’t made a roster.)

Trump preemptively canceled the White House visit by the Super Bowl winning Philadelphia Eagles—a move akin to a guy backing out of a date when realizing he was about to get dumped. The Eagles have been at the forefront of the NFL’s anthem displays, and their players have been loud, clear, and eloquent about the inequalities in this country, the need for social change—and now, in opposition to the President’s agenda of division and silencing.

Trump tried to sidestep confrontation as most bullies do. He shut down the team’s visit, choosing instead to hastily assemble a half-assed Nationalistic dog and pony show designed to further place himself (and America) opposite people of color who dare to ask for full access to that America.

It isn’t fooling anyone—well, anyone who wasn’t already fooled.

It’s all rather simple white folks: Trump played you. He exposed the bigotry you are so afflicted with. He reminded us why Nationalism is so dangerous and he showed that a third of the population refuse to let facts get in the way of the story white people they tell themselves about race, privilege, and their own oppression.

It’s super simple, at this point:

You can either toss out motives and intentions that these players have repeatedly denied—or you can lean in and listen to them.

You can beat your chest with fake Fox News outrage—or you can be silent for once, realizing you’ve always been heard and now someone else deserves to be.

You can pretend this is about when and how these athletes are protesting—or juts admit that it’s the fact that they’re protesting at all that really offends you, and you wish they’d stop inconveniencing you with truth that you’d rather not deal with.

You can choose supremacy wrapped in a veneer of cheap Patriotism—or you can choose to defend the freedoms you claim to be so damn protective of, by making sure everyone gets a seat at the table and has the same right to life, liberty, and happiness.

This is about what it’s always been about: us choosing to affirm white privilege or black lives.

Make a choice.

I’ve made mine.

I’m choosing humanity.

I’m taking a knee.

77 thoughts on “White People, This Anthem Thing is Really Simple

  1. To generalize it and address “white people” as an assumptive group makes YOU the biggest racist of them all. You are not part of the solution if you commit the same racist crimes, just simply a loud mouth bigot.

    Good luck with your career in hipocrisy.

    • You are throwing up a smoke screen of righteous indignation to avoid facing the truth about racism in the US today. You realize of course, at one time, black people were not only slaves, but counted as 60% human by whites, a view supported by Biblical teachings. The national anthem contains a verse with a degrading line about slaves. A war was fought to eliminate slavery, but is still whitewashed by many whites as a war over States rights. Laws were passed to give blacks voting & equal rights, but lynchings & resistance to desegregation persisted. These attitudes die hard & are still evident today in discrimatory & unjust treatment of blacks, even by some law enforcement officers. So get off your high brow soap box & be part of a solution rather than the problem.

    • While I cannot endorse this attack on Pavlovitz, you have a valid point.

      I took all kinds of hell with vile names for expressing admiration for Kaepernick as soon as I learned of his taking the knee in a noble exemplar of First Amendment speech.

      I said he was jeopardizing his fame and fortune to stand up for those who cannot, and deserved praise and support for his moral courage.

      Now, to read Pavlovitz’s divisive language, (and the horrible headline, which he may not have written) is truly disheartening, and shows that some people aren’t yet skilled with distinguishing people from their beliefs, biases, or opinions…and what skin color their grandparents happened to have.

  2. So why don’t these NFL players actually do something useful! They make millions and all they can think to do is take a knee! How sad!

  3. I spent 17 years in the Army to defend the rights of Americans so they can express what they feel. I am proud of my service. I understand what the kneeling means. Injustice needs to be sounded out and I applaud those who would take a stand especially if it means giving up your dreams. I would take a knee as well understanding that this has nothing to do with our flag or lack of patriotism. There will always be those that can be led by people of ignorance like a dog on a leash. It takes someone strong to stand up and take the lead and not falter in their path when they know what is right. It takes a strong man to follow his convictions even though they cost him his dream. Kaepernick is to be applauded.

    • Yet they choose to take a knee to the National Anthem which is in complete opposition to what you claim. It is all about patriotism, or the lack there of.

      Kaepernick and his ilk are to be reviled and Nike is to be boycotted.

  4. Typical leftist article. Blacks are free. Have been for a long time. They get preferential admission in most institutes of higher learning which is reverse racism, but no one ever gets anywhere even when that is pointed out. More whites are killed by police, many more, than blacks. What are they protesting? They represent what success is in America! They are millionaires and are the most un-oppressed group in America. And the NFL doesn’t have the balls to tell them to protest on their own time. The ball game IS their workplace.

    • Finally someone speaks up! The author in his generalization of “white people” identifies himself early as a bigot and racist. NFL players have countless ways of making their opinions known and kneeling during the anthem is nothing but pure disrespect for our country, those who died defending it and those who serve in the military today. All of us should join together to oppose the vocal few who spew garbage such as that stated in the article. Boycott the NFL and any corporations such as Nike that attempt to capitalize on this situation.

    • An oath is a personal statement, and is supposed to be an honest statement, meaning it’s religion.
      Separation of Church and State.

  5. Thank you for writing that piece on Obama – as a black woman I didn’t vote for him because i simply didn’t think he would win, and I didn’t want to (again) swallow that bitter pill. But he and his family were people to look up to and respect, and they continued that way for eight years! No tweeting, no divisiveness, no disrespecting other races or nations or acting like a reality contestant – he respected the office! Hopefully this blight will end in 2020; until then i will keep reading your piece over and over again.

  6. NFL athletes are not being treated like animals. They are being treated like employees. The purpose of an NFL athlete, just like the purpose of almost all employees, is to produce revenue. An NFL player’s real job is to sell tickets and merchandise.

    So, how do you think YOU as a business owner would react if one of your very highly compensated salesmen (the player) went to your store or customer’s location (the game) and repeatedly and after multiple warnings behaved in a way that was guaranteed to offend half of your customers and thereby decrease sales, and reduce profit? How would you expect your boss to react if you started doing things on work time at the work place which negatively impacted the success of your business?

    I fully support the right of Colin Kaepernick to exercise his freedom of speech. I hope he continues to do so as he sees fit.

    However, he does not have the right to expect continued employment anywhere if he engages in personal activity against his employer’s wishes while at his employer’s place of employment and “on company time” that will result in a direct monetary loss to his employer. He is not being persecuted. He is not being punished. No employer would knowingly hire an employee who will cost them a lot of profit.

    Why would any rational person expect anything different?

  7. If they had knelt during “Take me Out To The Ballgame” or “Sweet Caroline” maybe there wouldn’t have been all this confusion

  8. Shame on you!! Politics or having something to say during ant televised sports should be allowed. I want politics to be out of Football. Nobody seems to care what us regular working class people think. Stop crying and shingles about being treated unfair. This is America the land of the free. Colin seems to me to be a spoiled whining and unhappy human being. Live life with a positive attitude; it does make a difference in your outlook of everything!!!

  9. John – we all have our perspective. He is mine.

    As we flew into the base it was difficult to see the squad of soldiers concealed in the wood line. As the rotors cut back and the skids of our helicopter set down in the field I saw the Soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Regiment (the Old Guard) pop up and move with purpose toward our bird. To my left sat my two star General. The team was now complete for the mission – the dignified transfer process at Dover Airforce base. A mission that would soon become one of the most solemn tasks that I will ever conduct during my 27 year military career.

    A Dover Mission, as it is called, is the task of receiving military members who have died in service to their country. They are flown to Dover Delaware for the respectful repatriation of their remains into a country that they loved. The repatriation of remains is the son or daughter, mother or father, sister or brother, or friend of someone that remained behind. Sometimes it’s a good week and no calls will come to do this work. However, all too often the mission is conducted several times a week. This was one of those weeks.

    Once on the ground the soldiers of the Old Guard move from the helicopter to the aircraft to prepare the caskets on arrival. I escort the General Officer into the briefing room to receive our instructions. Once briefed we make our way out to the aircraft that now holds the caskets of those fallen in service to this country. Once I ensure the General is in place I move to join the other soldiers in the belly of the C-141. Inside the aircraft I find the soldiers working at a furiously pace ensuring that each flag draped coffin is in meticulous order. The contrast of a clear blue Delaware sky almost seems surreal against the sunlight which now reflects off of the white stars and stripes on each coffin. From my vantage point I can see the neat row of 9 hearse’s lined up awaiting the fallen, one for each casket. As the scissor lift is moved into place the soldiers of the 3rd snap to attention and I watch as each white gloved hand lifts another casket on to the tail ramp, then onto the scissor lift and into a waiting hearse. A hearse that will take each flag draped casket on its final journey home. A final journey back to a mother, wife, sister, brother, father, and loved one.

    Quite honestly whether you kneel for the flag or not is of no consiquence to them.

    Why you may ask?

    Because today their loved ones will receive them wrapped in it.

    This is the reason I stand, so you can exercise your option to kneel.

    • Those men died to protect innocent Americans, which happens to be the same reason players kneel. You are an absolute disgrace for trying to exploit their deaths to place a silly flag’s imaginary pride over actual American lives. Shame on you.

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