A few years back, Colin was a hero in my home. He wrote a letter to the president of the NFL when he was just a boy and boldly declared that he would one day play in the league– for either the Niners or the Packers.
I used him as an example of what bold faith looked like, and how important it is to have a vision for your future and to speak it out. My boys and I watched Colin in the Superbowl, and even though I’m not a big Niners fan, knowing a bit if his back story made it fun to root for him.
But now Colin’s in the news for an entirely different reason. He’s decided to take a stand on racial issues and use his influence by sitting down for the National Anthem and states that he will continue to do so until “change happens.”
My family was furious.
Immediately, we felt that this was completely disrespectful of the men and women who have sacrificed their very lives for this nation. It was a knee jerk reaction and even as the blustery frustration began to calm down, I asked my kids to reconsider.
You see, several weeks ago, in light if the shootings over the summer by police officers of black citizens and then of police officers by those who felt restitution and vengeance was theirs to take– we held a little summit meeting at our home.
Friends and family of all colors and backgrounds came together and we had an open and honest dialect about race relations. We asked some hard questions of one another and we answered sometimes while squirming. At the end of the night I learned several things:
I had no idea the lens through which my black friends who lived in the rougher section of town viewed Law Enforcement officers through.
I had never even heard some of the reasoning and beliefs that some of them held about police officers, how gangs/drugs/guns wind up in the hood, and a few of them truly had no love or faith in the United States of America based on how they viewed history.
We really could not see eye to eye on so many issues. Even so, I made sure that though we may disagree vehemently, we must remain friends and confidantes.
So while I completely disagree with Colin and his viewpoint, and how he is expressing it, I can say that after our summit here at my home, I’ve heard his viewpoint before. It’s a worldview I obviously disagree with, but it’s a lens he looks through. And since I did not grow up as a young boy of color, I must humbly admit that I couldn’t possibly understand what that’s like. These friends in my home who explained to me how they were taught to fear and despise law enforcement — some of them are grown men that call me Mom. I love them. I have to try and understand them. And I have to teach my children how people who grow up differently – like being taught to fear Law Enforcement officers from a young age – can view the same America in a completely different way.
And as disrespectful as I may think Colin is for sitting during our National Anthem, every man and woman who has fought, bled, or died for this nation did so knowing that their sacrifice is exactly what gives someone like Colin the ability to protest in such a way. I also hate it when someone burns the flag, but I am grateful that we live in a nation that allows for that kind of dissent. And I have taught my children the same.
Make sure you bring stories up like Colin’s at the dinner table. Let your kids banter back and forth about their opinion and you play the devil’s advocate. Teach them to try and see a story from every angle possible and expose them to different viewpoints so that they can experience what it feels like to have their opinions tested. And when they are old enough to understand, make sure they can have open dialogue and seek to at least HEAR how someone like Colin reaches that opinion. I’ve heard the backlash and disgust, and I might’ve been right there before I had met with my friends and had them explain their viewpoint to me. As my pastor so wisely said, “Just because I don’t have a problem with racism, doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem.”
Even as I disagree with Colin, he’s the same bold boy who wrote that letter to the head of the NFL, but now he’s declaring something else and the entire country is talking. I would ask of all my readers to not simply and blindly disagree, but seek to understand and make a difference.