Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Deplorable Persistence of Racism

In spite of having an article ready to post this morning, I felt compelled to write this piece yesterday, the day after VP Pence’s theatrical protest of the protesters at Sunday’s NFL game in Indianapolis. 
Trump’s/Pence’s Protest 
As has been in the news so much, too much, in the past weeks, the President has made some players in the National Football League (NFL) the target of repeated criticism. It all started back on Sept. 22 when DJT spoke at a rally in Alabama for Senate primary candidate Luther Strange. 
At a loss for appropriate words, as is often the case, at that rally DJT publicly called some NFL players SOBs. That was his depiction of those who have knelt rather than standing and saluting the flag during the singing of the national anthem.
From the next day on, DJT has persistently tweeted criticism of the protesting players, NFL owners, and the NFL in general for permitting such protests. 
DJT approved (or ordered?) Pence’s “political stunt,” as some have characterized it, of walking out of the stadium when (according to this article) on Oct. 8 for “the second week in a row, the 49ers had more than 20 players kneeling during the national anthem with their hands over their hearts.” 
(It has been reported that the cost of the Veep’s trip to Indianapolis for his brief appearance at the game cost us U.S. taxpayers around $200,000.) 
The NFL Player’s Protest
At most of you know, the protest of the NFL players was initiated last year by Colin Kaepernick, the then quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers. During his team’s last preseason games, Kaepernick sat and later kneeled during the singing of the national anthem. 
Actually, Nate Boyer, a U.S. Army veteran convinced Colin Kaepernick to kneel, rather than sit, while protesting police brutality during the national anthem, and Kaepernick has clearly said that he has “great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country.”
In a post-game interview on Aug. 26 last year, however, Kaepernick said,
I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.
The protest against racism of mostly black NFL players has greatly escalated this year after the President’s public remarks and persistent tweets.
Racism’s Persistence
Not only are DJT’s tweets persistent, the prevalence of racism seems to be quite persistent also.
Last Sunday when I was checking Yahoo! Sports online to see how the Colts-49ers game turned out, I began to read comment after comment in support of Trump/Pence and in criticism of the protesting NFL players.
Sadly, there were dozens of comments dissing the protesters before I saw one that mentioned the point of the ongoing protest of the black players: the persistence of racism.
I couldn’t help but wonder if many of those who wrote were not in the batch of “deplorables” that Hillary so famously/infamously mentioned last year. For example, here are a couple of the racist comments I happened to see:
“Blacks destroy their neighborhoods, why not their workplace?”
“No more NFL games for me. I'll just go skiing instead. There aren't any black skiers or blacks within 199 miles of a ski area.”
The nation continues to face real and perplexing problems. Kneeling during the national anthem isn’t one of those problems. Racism is. When are DJT and the VP going to deal seriously with that problem?


  1. Here are thoughtful comments received from a local Thinking Friend:

    I would love to hear specific and sensible answers and steps to resolve racism in the US. Everyone keeps talking about it and protesting it but I haven’t seen any concrete and sensible steps.

    "I am told by my black officer friends that in nearly all of these high profile minority killings by police officers, the victims, while they may not have deserved to die, have shown behavior that totally disrespects the law and endangered the officers, which in turn activated and escalated the situation, giving the officers their defense in court.

    "As I see it, by 'taking a knee' they are creating more fear in a majority of white people who in turn will privately vote for white guys like Trump who they think are going to forcefully protect them with law and order from the nonsensical ideas that some minorities put forth.
    "Van Jones calls it 'White Lash' and I agree with him; it is happening at MU. I would like to hear the steps that are specific, measurable, attainable and make sense."

    1. I have been thinking about how to respond to the comments posted above, but a few minutes ago I received an email from Thinking Friend Debra Sapp-Yarwood, who responded in my place. This was sent in an email to me, but she gave me permission to post her response.

      "I have thoughts for your first, anonymous, responder:

      "The very first sensible step to ending racism is to get on the same page with those who are injured, who are the victims of injustice, and that only happens by giving them a fair hearing. Your responder shows no willingness to do this. He has "black officer friends" (plural!) who tell him that the dead people caused the problem. They disrespected 'the law and endangered the officers, which in turn activated and escalated the situation, giving the officers their defense in court.'

      "Well, every defendant called before a grand jury or involved in a criminal case brings forth a 'defense in court,' but often juries will reject those defenses (especially when the defendant is a black man charged with murder). In this situation, however, over and over the white officers' defense in court has been upheld. The court of public opinion, however, has had the opportunity to see tapes in which white officers are fatally shooting black victims without imminent provocation, shooting them in the back (repeatedly) as they run away, holding them down and ignoring them (eleven times) when they say they cannot breathe, shooting them when they clearly are trying to relinquish their legal firearm and defuse the situation, et cetera.

      "Even if these victims, prior to the running of the tapes, disrespected and endangered the officers, can we not agree that our highly trained officers are (or should be) responsible for de-escalating and de-activating volatile situations as part of their arguably stressful jobs? They are the professionals, we often say. Does professional responsibility (or should it) convey an obligation to NOT mortally retaliate against someone who is undeniably defenseless at the time of the mortal wound(s), regardless of what the victim did before the cameras were rolling? If we could agree on this, then that would be sensible step two, and the measurable results we would then see would be court convictions and professional sanctions against white police officers who fail to uphold their professional duties to de-escalate situations rather than kill people.

      "Since I am a woman, your anonymous responder, no doubt, would write off my concerns as 'nonsensical ideas' deserving of "white lash" or, perhaps, 'male lash.' Should I be shot to death, since my ideas could create fear among 'the majority white people." (Trump did not win the popular vote, by the way, contrary to 'alternative facts.') Or should I simply be forced to not express my ideas, unless I express them in venues and ways approved by white men in power?"

    2. Thanks, Debra, I am a white man, albeit with little power, but I much appreciate your response. (And for those of you who don't know her, Debra is a white woman whose Sapp ancestors came from northern Europe.)

      Here is part of what I had been thinking about posting in response to the first paragraph of what my "local Thinking Friend" wrote: Why should it not be a primary responsibility of the President and his administration and/or the Congress to work toward finding "specific and sensible answers and steps to resolve racism in the US." Shouldn't the POTUS lead in a bipartisan attempt to analyze and respond to the lingering racism in this country?

      It seems to me that the criticism of Kaepernick and of those who have followed in his wake is a classic case of criticizing the messenger and ignoring the message.

      When will DJT tweet about the problem of racism, and when will his supporters call for him to deal with that problem. As I said in the article, "taking the knee" is not the problem. Racism is.

    3. The Thinking Friend, who comments by email and want to remain anonymous, wrote again and, among other things, said he would like to have coffee and a friendly conversation with Debra.

      He also made the following excellent suggestion:

      "I agree that Trump should doing something and my idea is that he call a private commission, much like the 911 Commission, of distinguished minorities like Michael Jordan, Emmanuel Cleaver, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, among other respected but non-politicals like black police officers, to define the problem and suggest ideas for legislative consideration and action."

  2. Just received these pertinent comments from Thinking Friend Eric Dollard in Chicago:

    "Thanks, Leroy, for your comments, with which I fully agree.

    "I could write much about this issue, but I will try to contain myself.

    "When our nation does something that is morally wrong, we have a moral obligation to protest. Our treatment of racial and other minorities has often been morally wrong and nonviolent protests of this treatment are appropriate and legal.

    "While some may prefer a protest different from that of the NFL players, those players have the right to protest as they did.

    "But I am uncomfortable with the whole notion of nation-worship. The national anthem or the pledge of allegiance strike me as rather silly exercises in superficial patriotism. My allegiance is not to a flag; it is to the rule of law, social justice, compassion for the less fortunate, the dignity of every human being, and nonviolence.

    "In the early days of the Republic, there was no national anthem and no pledge of allegiance and we got along just fine without them.

    "We need to retire our racism, nationalism, and superficial patriotism; the people of all nations need to do this. The lives of all human beings are precious, regardless of nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation, or anything else.

    "Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go."

  3. Here are pointed comments from Thinking Friend Bob Hanson in Wisconsin:

    "I am not sure what kind of response you are expecting from this wonderful clear minded and truthful Witness Leroy. Thanks so much. This is a witness that needs to be extended expanded everywhere.

    "The racist white supremacist in the White House and all of his minions are to be held accountable not only by the constitution that was written by bunch of slave owners and white people but also by the people.

    "I am very appreciative of your article. Resistance revolution impeachment for both of them but then will end up with a loony from Wisconsin like Ryan. But as some say cynically our country voted for this mess. Now we need to continue organizing locally to change this."

  4. Leroy, thank you for your thoughtful post. Racism is hard for us liberals to face. We tend to want to believe that is does not touch us and yet it very much does. Even if we had hopes during the Obama era, these have been broken apart under the current administration.

    The publicity stunt last weekend by the VP is just another indication that this administration has no desire to seek understanding. Our leaders should seek to be leaders for everyone and to seek understanding, openness and acceptance to say nothing of progress. Unfortunately, the administration does none of that.

    White people are blinded by our cultural experiences; some more and some less. The one point I want to make here is that this is not just a personal issue (I, you) but a broad issued (we, they, us). This is not an issue of personal piety but of cultural violence.

    1. Thanks, Lonnie, for posting your significant comments. I much appreciate you doing so.

  5. And then there are these helpful comments received from local Thinking Friend Marilyn Peot:

    "Yesterday I made a point of reciting our Pledge of Allegiance...

    I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America
    and to the Republic for which it stands:
    One nation
    under God
    with liberty and justice for all.

    "Would somebody explain to me why refusing to stand during the National Anthem goes against the flag and military?

    "Are those who understand that our liberty and justice is for all not justified in protesting our present prejudices and horrendous behaviors that go against such allegiance?

    "I don't think they/we are disrespectful to the flag and military--we are compassionate and just and need to be heard."

  6. My friend and colleague Dr. Tex Sample often reminded us that "the one(s) who describe the situation set the agenda." Mr. Trump has so thoroughly captured the attention of both social and public media that he can easily describe the NFL protests as "unpatriotic" and so set an agenda for his followers to carry out --- despite the message and agenda intended by Mr. Kaepernick and other players. Whose description (or "narrative" seems to be the popular word these days) will prevail, and what agenda will be set forth for public consumption?
    A number of commentators have opined that the NFL/Protest flap serves as a distraction from the many problems and contradictions besetting the Trump administration. Every magician knows that the best way to trick or fool someone is to use misdirection -- distract their attention from what is really going on.

    1. Thanks, Ed, for your thoughtful comments.

      I have to agree that DJT's tweets about the protests by the NFL players are most likely intended to be a distraction from many far greater problems that he would rather people not be so aware of.

  7. Here are significant comments I received by email this morning from Thinking Friend Michael Olmsted in Springfield, Mo.

    "I love my country and am descended from a long line of military service reaching all the way back to the Revolutionary War. I grew up in the
    military and am very proud of my Dad's service and his published books about WW II air warfare.

    "I see the kneeling of professional athletes (both white and black) as not disrespecting our flag or our veterans ... but sadness that some citizens and politicians, by their racial attitudes and use of political position to promote inequality and hatred, are the truly disrespectful figures in this tragic time.

    "The athletes KNEEL ... they know what it means to hear the word freedom without the respect and dignity that must be part of any true freedom. When will we learn the tragic lessons of history, that when some are denied equality all are lessened."

  8. Thinking Friend Glenn Hinson in Kentucky shares these brief comments:

    "I doubt whether either of them will come to grips with racism, Leroy. Both have lived in lily-white environments with privileges you and I have not known, much less our African-American friends."

  9. Thinking Friend Bill in Colorado sent these hard-hitting comments:

    "The narcissistic racist Trump and his like-minded toadys have usurped both God and the American flag as foils for their racism & prejudices. I am worried about the future of the country since Trump’s nut core of supporters support his idiocy.

    "I see now NFL owners are considering rules requiring all players to stand for the anthem—forced compliance is certainly not what the flag represents, but falls in line nicely with the current regime of cowards, bullies, liars and probable crooks.

    "America seems no longer America — hopefully true Americans can find a way to replace the current Nazi-KKK-supremacist zeitgeist. Until that happens, racism is the rule rather than the isolated exception."

  10. Local Thinking Friend Don Wideman writes,

    "Thanks, Leroy! Racism is our national sin, rarely acknowledged and usually portrayed as something else, e.g. patriotism.

    "I have read that the Trump-Pence action may have cost the U.S. over $ 400,000. I do try to sympathize with VP Pence as I think he has the worst job in our country, cleaning up after our President (It does resemble the worst job in the circus).

  11. A Thinking Friend who is the pastor of a Baptist church in south Missouri sent this brief comment:

    "DJT has set the USA back 50 years in the area of racism and Pence is a puppet!"

  12. I was watching a local professor give a lecture at the WWI museum about the outcome of the Treaty of Versailles and formation of the League of Nations. She noted that individuals and countries carry with them their own history and experience with others. As one ages, experiences increase. Bitter memories linger. The foundations of political divides, ethnic divides, and religious divides which lead to violence and war. President Wilson's idea was good, but their were too many bitter memories. So it is with us. And it is not a one-way street with racism. So where does reconciliation begin? In protest? I doubt it. It is more likely to come from building friendships - multi-laterally. And avoid those who are mean and look for trouble.

    At our last Rotary meeting, we honorably stood for the pledge. The for the prayer, we were asked to kneel on one knee. That did not go over, and was offensive to some. But the point was well made. As a community we should act honorably, even if we have differences. I have been to other religious meeting places. One follows the tradition even if one does not like it or believe it. With the NFL, many are voting with their feet. I have done so with other groups in the past - it is a good and safe protest.

    PS - Having lived in other lands, and with friends all over the world, (and having done a few stupid stunts myself), I know that people take their national flags seriously. Had one not stood for the Anthem, one would have faced a serious consequence (including a street kangaroo court). Thankfully, I joined in every time. Their Anthems were not a sporting events, but at the cinema, public gatherings, and at the parade ground, weekly at school. "Mungu ibariki Afrika..." or "Ee Mungu nguvu yetu...", etc. It was serious.

  13. Here are candid comments from a Thinking Friend in central Missouri:

    "I agree, Leroy. I also find it hard to stand, salute and pledge our flag. I nearly choke on the words, '...with freedom and justice for all.' Why? Because this country does not stand for that.

    "I also respect the men and women who have given their lives to gain and keep freedoms. But along with Kaepernick I am woefully ashamed of the deep racism that rears its ugly head every day in the USA.

    "I also think it's ridiculous for Trump to get so upset when he himself hasn't always saluted or has had to be reminded with a jab in the ribs by his current wife, to do so!

    "Meanwhile we have so many other issues that face us--especially with all the hurricane, flooding and raging fires damage, as well as the horrific shooting in Las Vegas --that need our attention!

    "I truly believe that other than his quick to jump and fire back tweets, he intentionally uses those tweets to keep us distracted from his outrageous tax plan and other decisions that are moving along while we're not paying attention! Shame on us, too! We are going to have to be diligent on his watch!"

  14. And here are comments from a different perspective from Thinking Friend Truett Baker in Arizona.

    "I don't question the presence of racism in our country. I keep hearing about it but I don't see any instances of it where I live and go to church. I'm sure some will call me blind and that's okay.

    "I am 83 years old and believe me, I have seen terrible treatment of Blacks in my lifetime. I remember the separate facilities for Blacks, the poll tax, even lynching's and rape, and discrimination of every sort: Black ghettos, seating in the rear of buses, and the list could go on. I don't see any of that today.

    "I hear about disproportionate numbers of Blacks who are in prison and I wonder if maybe there are more Blacks who commit crimes? I don't know that but I wish I had better information. I know there is more poverty and lack of education among the Black population, but many people have risen out of disadvantage to improve their lives. They have certainly had government assistance to do that and I applaud them.

    "That's my take, Leroy, and I hope I haven't ruffled too many feathers."

  15. A few minutes ago Glen Davis, one of my few Canadian Thinking Friends, sent by email the following brief comments"

    "Not sure if a Canadian should dare comment, but it seems to me that NFL players who take the knee are really standing UP! for an inclusive, just and fair America. Surely that is honouring the flag and the constitution. They are also exercising their right to free speech. God bless them and God bless America."

    1. Thanks, Glen. I appreciated hearing from you, and I think many of my readers will be happy to hear a voice from outside the U.S.