To Stand or To Kneel- That Is the Question...Or Is It?

American Flag.jpg

There is so much tension in the world right now. Some countries are trying to survive and recover from natural disasters. Some countries are in the middle of civil wars, genocides, and "ethnic cleansing". You read the news these days, and it's hard not to hang your head in defeat. Like...why get up? Why bother loving my neighbor? Why try? The whole world is going to hell anyway, right?

If you're reading this, I'm not sure what country you live in, but I live in America, and if you read this post, then you'll know I'm not always proud of that fact. America is my home. It's the only country I know. I was born and raised here, and there was a time, as a child, when I loved being an American. American pride is instilled in us almost from birth. We're taught that America is the greatest country on earth, that we're the leaders of the free world, that the world would crumble and cease to exist without us.

But over the last few years, my eyes have been opened to just how truly screwed up my country is. And this isn't about politics or policy. This isn't about being a democrat or a republican. This is about something that is so much more than just political affiliation. 

Racism has been around almost since the beginning of time. Every country or continent has faced racism of some kind at some point, and I'm sure all continue to, to a certain extent. But I can only speak to the problem of systemic racism in America.

Police brutality is real, and if you think it isn't, that's probably because you're privileged enough that it's not a threat to you. But there are people who look just like me who are killed every day just because they were born with a certain color of skin. Mass incarceration of black people (black men more specifically) is a reality as well. And if you're wanting me to provide the proof of just these two specific examples of systemic racism, then this isn't the post for you. You can look that up for yourself, because I promise you, the evidence isn't hard to find.

Recently, Donald Trump made disrespectful comments in regards to NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem as a form of protest. I'll be honest with you, I have absolutely no respect for Donald Trump. Not a single ounce, and I'm sad but not ashamed to say that.

However, the conversation has become about whether these professional athletes are protesting the flag or not. And here's the thing: THIS ISN'T ABOUT A FLAG. Okay, it is, but it isn't. It's about the flag in that the flag is representative of a nation built on the idea of freedom. 

The problem with that is that when this country was founded, not all people were free. Slavery was still a thriving industry in America. My ancestors were seen as property, less than human, and in some cases less than livestock. My ancestors were beaten, raped, mutilated, tortured, starved, and stripped of all dignity and humanity.

In many cases, they weren't allowed to learn to read. Some female slaves had their children ripped from their arms and sold for auction. And just writing that out breaks my heart into pieces because I cannot even imagine my son being taken from me only to be sold to a stranger who would probably treat him like he were worth less than a dog.

The thing is...slavery has been abolished in America, and yet systemic racism still persists. And that's what Colin Kaepernick and others like him are trying to bring attention and awareness to. That's what he wants to change. That's what I want to change.

But here we are in 2017, 152 years after slavery was abolished and 53 years after the Civil Rights Act was enacted, and I still find myself having to convince others that my humanity isn't based on the color of my skin. I'm still having to convince people that my life and rights are more important than the worship of a flag (or flags, if you count the confederate flag). 

Why is that? Why do some people care more about how the flag is respected than how people of color are respected? Why are you still questioning our humanity? Yes, I'm talking to the flag worshippers here.

What is so threatening to you about a people protesting for their right to be heard, acknowledged, and understood? Please, think about it and let me know.

Pals, this isn't about disrespecting the military. I have many dear friends and family who have served or are currently serving in the military, and I couldn't be more proud of them. I love and respect the hell out of them, and I am honored that they would sacrifice anything for me.

But here's the deal: I and others like me can peacefully protest injustice and respect the military at the same time

And don't even get me started on disrespecting the flag itself. You guys, it's fabric. At the end of the day, all it is, is a symbol. But the flag itself isn't worth more than a person (of ANY color). The flag itself does not give me freedom. It doesn't pay my bills, or raise my child, or give me a future. The honest truth is that only Jesus can give me real freedom, if we want to be really real about things. While we're at it, go ahead and take a look at the U.S. Flag Code and educated yourself as to what is actually considered disrespectful to the flag. 

I could go on, and honestly, this issue is so complicated that I could write a month's worth of blog posts on it and still only scratch the surface. 

But I just want to say that I'm tired. I have loved people of other races my entire life, and yes, that includes a great many white people. I have loved these people, not because of or despite their race, but just because they are PEOPLE. I believe what Jesus said when he said the second greatest commandment is to love others as you love yourself. 

And if you're not a Christian, the golden rule remains: treat other people the way you want to be treated. 

We are all human. We all bleed. We all die. We all love, and hurt, and cry, and fail, and succeed. We all have insecurities, fears, doubts, talents, gifts, strengths and weaknesses.

WE. ARE. HUMAN.

I’m not afraid
To take a stand
Everybody
Come take my hand
We’ll walk this road together, through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just letting you know that you’re not alone
Holler if you feel like you’ve been down the same road
— Not Afraid by Eminem

Cheers,
LesLeigh J.