OPINION: Don’t Ignore the Racism around You
Here's a speech that was given at Oregon, USA by Penny E. Nakamura. I found it while doing my some online research. Although it was targeted at the local community, I found some elements in it as universal. So, I decided to share. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Wake up, Oregon: Systemic racism exists in this country, and it exists here in Bend too, but we often ignore it or let it slide, because we choose to live in our bubble.
I’ve been surprised by people I know here who believe in the latest NFL mandate that you either stand for the national anthem or you stay in the locker room.
Taking a knee is not about disrespecting our flag or disrespecting those who have served in our military.
It’s a protest to shed light on the fact that black lives do matter. We hear about an unarmed African American person being fatally shot by police for a few days or a week, and then it disappears from the news, but guess what? The problem doesn’t go away; it happens over and over again.
With 69.7 per cent of the NFL comprising people of color, is it any wonder that many choose to take the knee?
Taking a knee is about free expression, which our Constitution is supposed to protect for all Americans. By punishing players and their teams who exercise their right to free expression, the NFL is denying them a basic American value.
NFL player and former San Fransisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick started taking the knee to bring awareness to the oppression and police brutality directed toward people of color. Kaepernick was later joined by teammate Eric Reid, who wrote this Aug. 8, 2017, New York Times Op/Ed piece:
“We also discussed how we could use our platform, provided to us by being professional athletes in the NFL, to speak for those who are voiceless.
“After hours of careful consideration … and a visit from retired Green Beret and former NFL player Nate Boyer, we came to the conclusion we should kneel … we chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.”
Today, both Reid and Kaepernick remain unsigned.
Since President Trump has come into office he has inflamed the racial divide in this country, and in many cases, it has emboldened closeted bigots to come out and behave in a manner that we have not seen since the Civil Rights movement.
Trump has attacked the NFL players who chose to take a knee with slurs, but the neo-Nazis who protested in Charlottesville, Virginia, were called “very fine people.” His latest rant directed at the protesting NFL players was “maybe they should just leave the country.”
The racial divide this president seems to be widening by the day provides almost a daily list of “white privilege.”
For example, the case at a Philadelphia Starbucks, where a manager there called the police on two African American men who asked to use the restroom while waiting for a white friend.
The case at Yale University, where an African American graduate student there was taking a nap, and the police were called in again by a white Yale student.
The case of two Native American students who were on a college tour in Colorado, and one of the white parents on the tour called police because they were acting suspicious because “they were too quiet.”
Then there was NBA basketball player Sterling Brown, who was brutalized by the police in Milwaukee and tased for a parking violation.
There are many more such indefensible incidents. And that’s the point: The list is long, it goes on and on, numbing America’s attention. A symbolic act, like taking a knee, punctuates our consciousness, helps us all remember we can do better.
Bringing awareness to situations of police brutality and racial injustice is not a political game. President Trump manipulates many into believing it’s an unpatriotic act to take a knee. In reality, the stakes are much higher than who wins a football game; it is a matter of life and death for those who cannot speak or defend themselves.
Penny E. Nakamura lives in Bend
Originally published in The Bulletin