Taking A Knee. Students should reflect on the true reason behind the protests

Misha Rekhter, Perspectives Editor

When I discuss the recent anthem protests by NFL players over the past few weeks, I want to acknowledge that while I may think I “get it,” I can never fully understand the foundation and necessity of the protests. After all, I am a white male, and “white privilege” is still very much a real phenomenon in America. I like to think I’m socially aware, but I’ve never dealt with police brutality or discrimination, so I am unable to truly understand the pain and suffering that black people feel in society today. While I fundamentally understand and fully support these protests, I will not argue the merit of the protests, only the ramifications that should ensue.
As for the protests themselves, there remains an underlying issue. Last year, when I wrote about Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the anthem, I supported his message but took issue with his methodology. I said the anthem was the wrong time to protest and was worried Kaepernick’s message would become misconstrued. In the past year, my suspicions have been confirmed, and I remain adamant in my belief that these protests should not take place during the anthem. However, this column is neither a vain effort to discredit and censor the players nor a second plea for players to promote their message on a better platform, but rather a concentrated effort to shift the debate back to the issue of police brutality and discrimination.
This is the true tragedy of the situation: in the midst of the disgust, the real message is lost. With their rise in relevance, the protests have also begun to be wildly misinterpreted. As the national public has weighed in, there has been a steady stream of disgust-laden assaults, but this anger is misplaced. The stance the protesters have taken is not against the anthem and everything it represents but rather against police brutality, and the anthem is merely a platform to vocalize their message.
Ultimately, it remains disheartening to witness how the public has neglected the original message of players such as Kaepernick. For me, this is the most unfortunate and heartbreaking aspect of the issue. When prominent figures such as President Donald Trump attack the protest, it reduces the conversation to “Trump vs. NFL” or “players vs. anthem.” As a result, instead of inciting conversation regarding police brutality and discrimination, as Kaepernick’s original protest was intended, the topic of discussion is obscured by anger toward Trump and misguided arguments about the meaning of the anthem.
Responsibility falls on us, the citizens of America, to understand and discuss the issues at hand. Change will not come easily, but as a society we are capable of inciting revolution; the challenge lies in tackling the issue individually. While the medium may be incorrect, it does not discredit the intended message. So next time you see a protest, take it at face value. It is a cry for help, a call for action. If we continue to willfully ignore conflicts such as these, they will persist and permeate; ultimately change will only come if we create it ourselves.

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