“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” said Colin Kaepernick, as he refused to stand during the playing of the national anthem before NFL football games. Mr. Kaepernick’s actions have led to widespread protests during the national anthem by other NFL players, which have elicited a strong response against the protest by many Americans. Here are a few thoughts to consider.
Mr. Kaepernick’s behavior and comments are political in nature. He has every right to make them and has every legal right to protest as he wishes. However, there are serious consequences for Mr. Kaepernick for entering the political fray. His popularity suffered in the eyes of those who disagree with his protests. His economic well-being has suffered, as employers fear disruption or loss of income as a result of employing him. Americans have every legal right to be political and to protest, but there is no protection against the economic ramifications of becoming political. The exercising of political freedom in controversial political matters always has costs, which is why many Americans will not participate in public discussions of their political views.
Many Americans are not satisfied with the status of race relations in today’s America. Legal racism has diminished, but real racial harmony, the ability of people of different racial groups to live together in peace and happiness, remains elusive. Let’s start improving race relations by focusing on achieving a truly integrated workforce, where people regardless of racial backgrounds work side by side, day after day, on all levels (as workers, supervisors, managers, owners) for a common goal. If we are to achieve true social equality, our goal must be cultural. Social integration can be achieved through common experiences and the camaraderie of shared work.
When people work together toward a common goal, they get along, see others as people, and lose their fear of one another. Perceived differences vanish when we are “teammates” who work and pull together to win, work to be successful with our fellow men and women, work together towards common goals.
How do we better educate and prepare our children so they can all join in and be on the team, no matter the color of their skin, the shape of their eyes, their family’s history? We must value all of our young ones, for they are our future. We must have safe neighborhoods where people do not fear each other. Social services must be structured to support the family unit and to encourage work. Early childhood education and truly excellent, rigorous and high-performing public education and training must be the norm for every child. Working toward academic success must be encouraged and celebrated, just as we celebrate and revere athletic success.
I have lived real racial integration growing up in a military community, on school athletic teams, and in my medical training and work. In those settings, everyone was valued as equals and important parts of the team. Everyone served as leaders and mentors to those coming up and to those around each of us. We learned together, we struggled together, we laughedtogether, we cried together, we encouraged each other, we pushed each other, and we celebrated each other. We had each other’s backs. We were team. We are team.
Let us use this moment in time to unite us, to make real the words of our Constitution “…to form a more perfect Union, ESTABLISH JUSTICE, INSURE DOMESTIC TRANQUILITY, provide for the common defence, PROMOTE THE GENERAL WELFARE…”
We are poised; we are ready and able to become that lofty nation, not just be a lofty notion, which our forefathers hoped would spring forth from this great land of ours.