In the Old Testament, sitting (or “taking a knee”) while others stood around you typically meant one of two things: either you were royalty, or you were trying to show disrespect to those in your presence.
In our modern culture, similar behavior lands you on the cover of TIME magazine, heralded as a hero. But one man’s hero is another man’s misguided backup quarterback making $18 million a year.
As I wrote in an earlier Acculturated post, San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick could have communicated his frustrations with race relations in the United States in a number of different ways. He has access to media and social media platforms that non-professional athletes and non-celebrities do not. He could have coordinated with other teammates, professional athletes, television networks, sports blogs, law enforcement agencies and grassroots organizations to hold press conferences, town-hall forums, live-streamed events, or the like on behalf of enacting a national dialogue about the problems facing inner city communities.
For Kaepernick, or any public figure for that matter, to contend that the “only” —or even the “best” —way to raise awareness about important issues is to refuse to stand during the National Anthem is difficult to take seriously.
But not everyone in (or affiliated with) the National Football League is content with photo-ops and sanctimonious press conferences after a less than stellar performance on the field.
Green Bay Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, for example, has decided to take a different course of action in the face of mounting pressure for African-American athletes to “do something” about race relations.
The fatal shootings of black men by police in Ferguson, Baton Rouge, Dallas and other places that have been in the news gave Clinton-Dix another reason to work on finishing his degree in criminal justice from the University of Alabama, where he was an All-American before joining the NFL as a first-round draft choice in 2014.
“I went into criminal justice because I want to learn more about the law, about what’s going on in this world . . . and be a mentor to kids from where I’m from to understand that the law isn’t against you, it’s actually for you.”
Regardless of one’s skin color or socio-economic background, we all recognize that no amount of rules, laws, or government programs can successfully replace things like parental involvement, personal relationships, and a “boots on the ground” approach to the raising of children and the development of a community. The problem in many struggling neighborhoods is the lack of adult males with positive messages of how they overcame broken homes or impoverished upbringings and made good lives for themselves.
What Clinton-Dix is trying to do is as commendable as it is tangible.
“You have to put yourself in people’s shoes in certain situations because you don’t know what people really think or what they’re really going through,” Clinton-Dix said. “I feel for the cops. I feel for us as a society as a whole, period. I just hope we can find peace and justice and get back to getting better in this world. That’s how it was going. We were getting better. And I just hope it goes back to that way.”
It is easy to be angry at “the system.” It is also easy to be angry at someone like Colin Kaepernick for his anger with “the system.” But what we see and hear very little of on either side of this issue are things like perspective, thoughtfulness, or actionable advice. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is trying to do something about an untenable situation rather than simply turn it into a P.R. stunt.
It sounds like he may have been listening to what Dallas Police Chief David Brown said this summer, after the violence in the city.
“Serve your community,” Chief Brown urged. We should all hope more celebrities and athletes heed his advice. Kneeling during the National Anthem is easy and lasts just a few minutes; service, on the other hand, should last a lifetime.