Before judging, consider the historical context of the NFL football players’ protest. Slavery existed for longer than the U.S. has been a country. Despite the Emancipation Proclamation, men, guilty of no crime, were forced to work without pay well into the 20th century. State and local laws enforced racial segregation until the Civil Rights Act just 53 years ago. The last person born into slavery died during my lifetime.
Consider the current context: There is a 16 percent gap between black and white people in premature death rates, and blacks in 2015 earned 75 percent as much as whites in median hourly earnings. And the list goes on.
Consider the response: Our President called them “sons of bitches.” Yet, in response to tiki torch-carrying white supremacists, he said there were “some very fine people.” And, an NFL owner said of the player protest, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison.” The parallel between ownership/incarceration and slavery was lost on him.
Moving forward it is important that we not misinterpret or appropriate the message of the protesters or groups like Black Lives Matter. They are not saying “blue lives don’t matter” nor are they questioning the patriotism of our soldiers.
Moving forward we should consider their perspective. Well-meaning people responded to Charlottesville by posting “this is not us” on social media. However, a black commentator, when asked about this well-meaning post, responded, “Yes, this is us (America), but it is not who we want to be.”
Scott Pearson, Olympia