I am a white girl from a small town in Mississippi. And right now, a lot of people on my newsfeed are mad at Nike for their new ad campaign.
If you've been living under a rock, I'll break it down for you. In 2016, Colin Kaepernick silently remained seated during the national anthem before an NFL game to protest racial injustice and police brutality. This led to a movement that people have been arguing about for two years now.
People who oppose the movement have called it disrespectful. Some of them have suggested that Kaepernick and other players who have knelt alongside him should leave the country. Our president even called for NFL coaches to "Get that son of a b*tch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!"
But here's what I think.
I think everyone is missing the point.
The invitation to join a difficult conversation.
Black men aged 15–34 are about 15 times more likely to be killed by police than other people. In 2017, police killed 19 unarmed black males, down from 36 in 2015, according to The Washington Post.
I think it's important to respect the national anthem. I am grateful for the men and women who have fought and continue to fight for our freedom. But I also think it's important to speak out when something is wrong. And the killing of these unarmed black men is wrong.
I respect our veterans. I love our country. I don't think all police are corrupt. But I can't be angry at a group of influential athletes for exercising their right to peacefully protest something as cruel and unjust as what is happening to our black brothers and sisters.
The people protesting love America. They just want it to be what it claims to be in its anthem – land of the free. If they're going to stand and honor our anthem, shouldn't it represent freedom – real freedom from racial profiling or injustice, for everyone?
I have never experienced racial injustice. I have never been followed by a cop or pulled over for no reason. I have never been suspiciously watched as I walk down the street. And neither have most of you reading this. I get it – I know how easy it is to say Kaepernick is being disrespectful and totally ignore the point he's trying to make, because that's much easier than looking at the bigger mess that is racial injustice.
It's far more simple to tell the NFL players to "stand up and do their job" than it is to listen to them and have a real conversation about what's happening in our country.
But I can't do that anymore. Just because I am a white girl doesn't mean I shouldn't hurt when my black brothers and sisters hurt. And right now, many of them are hurting.
So continue burning your Nike clothes if you want. Or maybe, actually try reaching out to your black brothers and sisters and learning about how you can be a part of the solution.
As for me, I am choosing to listen. To try to understand. To educate myself. To ask how I can help. To take part in difficult conversations. To show compassion. And to hold hands with my black brothers and sisters.
"I have decided to stick with love... Hate is too great a burden to bear."
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
P.S. If you would like book, blog, podcast, etc. recommendations on racial injustice, I'm happy to share.