If you’ve turned on ESPN, scrolled through Facebook, or listened to sports talk radio in the past few days, then you’ve probably heard of Colin Kaepernick’s controversial decision to not stand during the National Anthem at the 49ers preseason game this past Friday. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick explained in an interview that followed the game.
Soon after the media coverage, comments and articles abounded.
What he did was un-American. He should be punished.
We should see more athletes following Kaepernick’s example. Kaepernick took a bold stand unlike many others.
These are the types of comments I’ve seen around the web and on social media.
Was he right in what he did? Should he be suspended or applauded?
This conversation arose several times this past weekend with different friends and family. I remained reserved while I listened to others’ responses and gathered my own thoughts.
It wasn’t until the third conversation I had about Kapernick’s decision that my thoughts finally came together.
I realized something while I discussed the issue that I believe should change the way we enter the conversation: if we simply discuss Kaep’s decision, criticizing or applauding it, we are utterly missing the most important part.
You or I may agree or disagree with the choice Kapernick made to signify his beliefs, but the most important part is not whether the action he took was right or wrong, but whether there is truth in his words.
Now I want to be careful, because I can already hear the objections to what I just wrote.
Agree or disagree with the protest, I believe we can all agree that there is racial tension alive today in increasing amounts.
From the oppression of black people to the targeting of white people and exploitation of minorities, racism is alive and well all across our country.
We may disagree with the dramatic stance Kaepernick took or with the specific words he used, but we can’t deny there is some validity in his statement.
But again, the conversation is left void even there.
It’s not enough to simply recognize that there is a societal problem of racism.
It’s easy to recognize a societal issue and point fingers at politicians, people of other ethnic backgrounds, or other generations as the root of the problem. But when we do this, we are missing the reality that all societies are made up of individuals.
Cultural norms are not set in place merely by public policy or government laws, but by individuals who choose each day how they live. The way you and I live each day either transforms the culture little by little or feeds the lie that issues will never change.
We have the responsibility, both individually and corporately to not just recognize the problems in our society, but to seek out solutions to the issues.
The first thing we must do is take ownership for the ways we all have failed in living and loving like Jesus. The question is not if we are all part of the issue. We all are part of the problem (if you don’t believe me, read my post What’s Wrong with the World Today?). The question is, will we be part of the solution?
So keep talking about Kaepernick’s decision. But don’t enter the conversation with anger or praise, but with a humble heart that realizes we all can do better at bringing restitution to the racial tension in our country. Wherever you stand on Kaepernick’s actions and words, do not forget that we all have a role in changing our culture by being peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), reconcilers (2 Corinthians 5:18), and above, by living and loving like Jesus (John 13:35).