Justice for all in the land of the free

When we recite the Pledge of Allegiance, do we conclude with “liberty and justice for some?” For some? No! We pledge allegiance to a country that supports liberty and justice for all. Our national anthem recognizes the flag as a symbol of freedom and equality. All people in America hold these truths to be self-evident. They are engraved in the foundation of this great land.

Legal, nonviolent silent protests are happening now in America’s most honored tradition of professional sports. The intention is to raise awareness about the injustice of racism in a system that allows unarmed black men, women and children to be killed by law enforcement officials with no legal consequences. Condemnation of those taking a knee during the national anthem prior to NFL games has been swift and fierce. Taking time to understand the reasons behind this exercise of civil rights has been insubstantial.

Colin Kaepernick has been blacklisted from the NFL and is now an outcast. Others who have kneeled with him are similarly criticized. They are expected to stand up for the national anthem or be called traitors. Yet police officers killing people of color are allowed to walk free. Murder and manslaughter deserve at least as much contempt as kneeling in peaceful protest.

Donald Trump has gone out of his way to publicly criticize and personally attack the nation’s top athletes for protesting, calling them S.O.B.s and demanding they be fired. He has nothing but harsh words against patriotic men exercising their first amendment rights to peacefully protest racial injustice. Of course, the president has the right to free speech. However, as president he has the ultimate duty to uphold rights for all people, not just pander to a base of supporters that do not care to investigate why these protests are important. Trump utilizes an inflammatory issue to divide this country and show his support for a system that trivializes struggles by people of color.

In the big picture, Trump has actually given NFL tycoons a way to unify against the words of a public figure, rather than truly address the issue. The president and the NFL could use this opportunity to say to America, “we have a problem in this country, and we need to unite against the true enemy: racism. We are not going to stand for people of any race to be treated unjustly.”

Claiming that taking a knee during the anthem is disrespectful to every soldier who has ever fought for America is unjustified. Freedom is exactly why men and women of the armed forces fight. Proclaiming that famous sports’ figures should stand up and shut up because they get huge salaries and nobody wants to listen to their opinions is truly disrespectful.

Standing during the national anthem is an exercise in tradition and unity. Kneeling during the anthem, according to Eric Reid of the 49ers, is a respectful gesture intended to give impact to a social justice message, with emphasis on the issue of “systemic oppression against people of color, police brutality, and the criminal justice system.” The protesters are not burning flags. They are not rioting in the streets. They are not destroying public property. They are not uttering anti-American slogans. Critics of the protesters are often outraged by any and all attempts to stand up against racism.

The protesters are brave. They are making the statement that black people do not deserve to die because they reach for their license and registration in the car console. They are saying that no one deserves to be murdered in cold blood with their children and family looking on simply because they fail to comply with every whim of a fearful, trigger-happy police officer. They are letting us know that racism remains an evil force within a country that oppresses people of color in a legal system that supports violence against them. John Pavlovitz states that the protesters are attempting “to keep more people from dying,” and “stop the bleeding rather than make peace with it.”

According to the Root study of data from various sources including the National Police Misconduct Reporting Project, since June 2007, there have been over 10,000 police shootings, and only five white police officers have been imprisoned for killing African-Americans. Getty sources report that from 2011 to 2016, 41 black men and youths were killed by police. None of those killings resulted in convictions. The most recent release of Officer Jason Stockley for shooting and killing Anthony Lamar Smith has sparked protests in the streets of St. Louis. This is the basis of the protest. Police brutality and violence against African-American people needs to stop in this land of the free and home of the brave.

This is the basis of the protest. Police brutality and violence against African-American people needs to stop in this land of the free and home of the brave. As Chicago Bears chairman George McCaskey says, “What makes this the greatest country in the world are the liberties it was founded upon and the freedom to express oneself in a respectful and peaceful manner.”

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