Social protest is an action that is meant to be meaningful and provocative—that is to challenge the psyche of the status quo. As athletes across the country participate in kneeling during the national anthem, their actions create space for discussion and allow us to reflect on our collective values, direction and social organization as a nation. While I cannot speak on behalf of other athletes, my personal reflections are critical of racial tensions present in our society.
Amidst inequalities in the criminal justice and education systems, problematic representations in media and culture as well as the normalizations of racialized interaction in public spaces, my identity as a black man compels me to speak out against these racial injustices. While kneeling as a form of protest, peaceful and nonviolent, is passive in performance, it is meant to be an act of solidarity. It is not meant to draw explicit attention to myself as an individual, my team or Macalester. This solidarity is grounded in standing (no pun intended) with a broader group of athletes and people who recognize similar inequalities in this country.
I have not sought publicity or attention and this act of protest has been met surprisingly with relative silence. On this campus in particular I am met with an environment that on the surface promotes a diverse array of students from a wide berth of backgrounds and experiences, but my day-to-day interactions are not congruent with this portrayal of campus.
The reality is that over 90 percent of athletes at Macalester are white. The reality is that in nearly all of my classes, I am one of the only students of color. The reality is that upon the graduation of two seniors, the Macalester football team will lose a third of its students of color.
I can’t fault the institution entirely, but as a ‘liberal’ student body, the lack of conversation around the topic of race is striking. Very seldom have I witnessed certain sectors of this campus confront their own approach to diversity. I am fully respectful and receptive to all opinions and experiences, but when I am comforted with silence, I am unable to interpret both the validity of my own actions and the perceptions of my peers.
The goals of this protest are not linked to disrespecting our country or the flag. Every person derives their own meaning from what our national anthem and the Stars and Stripes represent. For this reason, I am not turning my back or refusing to accept the privileges I am granted as a citizen of the United States. I recognize that my position as a straight cis male college student athlete grants me opportunities unavailable to a large portion of the population.
I honor those of every creed and color who have come, fought and died before me and who have created the space which I inhabit today. With that being said, I cannot ignore my responsibility to use the platform I have been given in a meaningful way.
I am kneeling with both respect to my freedoms and in acknowledgment of greater national problems that I feel need to be addressed. I protest in solidarity for the promotion of societal change by challenging perspectives of our nation and what its flag represents.