The news, and social media have blown up over so many issues in recent months, but many have dealt with expression of race and racism. The most recent event to stir up controversy has been Colin Kaepernick's choice to not stand during the national anthem.
I have read so many posts, articles, videos, etc. sharing various points of view on this issue. There are those who support him and those who oppose his stance but there are also many who share their racist views about this and other issues. Reading through the whole conversation I have been inspired by the opinions of some and disturbed by the views of others.
There is a hashtag #IsupportKaepernickbecause that I followed for some time the other day and saw the support and posts that left me deeply troubled. I included some of the picture posts below. I did not select them to make a point showing positive or negative posts. I went through selecting picture posts from multiple days and tried to find ones that weren't repeats of basically the same image or idea. I must also caution that there are some posts that contain content that I wouldn't want my children to read unless I was ready to have a teachable moment conversation about racism and prejudice.
Some image posts from the #IsupportKaepernickbecause
Here is an article that someone shared in support of Colin Kaepernick that was an interesting read.
What is the real issue behind this controversy?
What I have seen in the posts from both Twitter and Facebook, and yes I am ashamed of some of the posts that I have read from my FB friends about this issue has missed the real issue.
Why Colin Kaepernick is not standing for the pledge is about his feelings about how African Americans are being treated in America. That is the issue, however his actions - not standing for the National Anthem has opened up into a new conversation. As a result his actions are being connected with the Flag, our symbol of Patriotism, Sacrifice of Soldiers, and the Ideals of this nation. I am not taking a stance in support or against his actions. I think it is a complex issue that involves multiple facets. There is the issue of patriotism and what the flag represents, but then there is the first amendment that allows freedom of speech, expression and protest.
What has made this issue so compelling to follow for me is the diverse topics that people bring up to support their position. I have seen posts asking how can Colin Kaepernick be oppressed when he was raised by white people? Or how can African Americans be oppressed if we have a Black President, Black Justices, Lawyers or Doctors? Another set attacks Kaepernick's salary. It must be tough being oppressed and making $19 million a year. There are others wondering if he will give up his salary. These are just some of the tangents that have arisen that I want to comment on, but that would elongate this post into something beyond our purpose.
What I think the comments about his salary are missing is a basic fundamental connection to the idea of empathy. I have never experienced the kind of prejudice, racism, discrimination that some humans have endured. I do not know what it was like to live under Jim Crow laws in the south or to be imprisoned during the Japanese internment during World War II. I will never know the anguish that Jewish parents felt as their children were taken from them, or the children learning their parents had been killed by the Nazis. I wish we lived in a world that these events never occurred. I do not have to experience these to be able to empathize with the suffering of others. I can feel sorrow for a friend, or colleague who is battling cancer. I can understand the struggles to a degree that I know no one should ever have to face those challenges without having to live through them myself.
I found myself thinking about the individuals who marched with African Americans during the Civil Rights movement. There were Blacks and Whites alike. They walked together, they rode the busses into the south, sat at the lunch counters and were beaten and killed alongside their African American counterparts. These young white men and women had not experienced the oppression they were fighting against. They didn't have to go to inferior schools, sit in the back of the bus, or face injustices in our legal and social systems. Yet they empathized with the struggles of others and decided they MUST take a stand. They must do something to change their world and make it better for others. Colin Kaepernick maybe living a life where he has wealth and fame, but from the images I have seen he is still facing Oppression.
I asked a colleague one simple question today- What is the worst name you have ever been called as a white person in America?
If you asked an African American what do you think their answer would be? Which do you think would be the more severe insult?
Patriotism and the National Anthem
Q1 What does the National Anthem mean to America? To you? To all groups within our Nation?
Watch the video and listen to the verse that is not included in the National Anthem.
Q2 What does this verse mean to you? Should it be included in the National Anthem?
Oppression vs. White Privilege
I have seen discussion of White Privilege for a number of years. When I first heard this I thought it was a load of crap to be frank. I come from a blue collar working class family who had to sacrifice to make ends meet. I didn't have power in society, the ability to change things or tell others what to do that would impact their lives. Then I went to Mississippi on a mission trip and had a moment where I felt like I was in the minority. I walked into a grocery store and was the only white person in the store other than the other teacher I was there with. This was a pivotal moment in my life. I was aware of the feeling, a feeling I never experienced in my life, well other than being the only male in a women in literature class in college, but that's another story. In this moment I realized I had never been aware of being the only person who was white in a room before. I immediately began to think about how people of minority are treated in a world where they are the minority every day.
Q3 What is Oppression and how can we use this concept in our teaching?
Q4 How can you incorporate the idea of White Privilege into racial conversations in your class?
This story has lots of examples of challenges to the idea of Free Speech. There is the example of Kepernick exercising his Freedom of Speech to not stand for the National Anthem. There are others using their Freedom of Speech to criticize his actions and protest. Finally there are those who use their Freedom of Speech to post racist and inflammatory remarks to incite reaction from others.
Q5 Are there or should there be limits to freedom of speech?
Q6 How can you incorporate and use the ideas of protest in lessons you teach?
Q7 Should protests include the flag, (burning the flag) national anthem etc. or are those off limits?