Why We Should Speak Up, Stand Up and/or Take A Knee - An Essay
By Dr. Randall Dalton, MD
Let me start off by identifying the “we” who I feel should take a stand, and be involved in activism as it relates to bringing more clarity and insight to conversations and discussions about “racial injustices”, racism / bigotry (“institutionalized” and otherwise), discrimination and other issues that continue to divide this nation along racial and ethnic lines. This “we” should be individuals who recognize that there continues to be problems that need to be addressed. This group should be made up of men and women who are not afraid to listen to and speak truths that may make others, who insist that they are not responsible for the “sins of their fathers / grandfathers / great-grandfathers”, uncomfortable and thus defensive. These individuals should be willing and able to acknowledge and indict a “system” that has created, propagated and preserved a wedge that has divided citizens of this nation based on skin color. These individuals at the same time must not attack our brothers and sisters, who are also exploited by this “system” that persists and thrives, without them even recognizing that it exists; thus the denial and guilt. We must teach, share and debunk lies!
The first lies that need to be debunked is that those who feel compelled to not to stand up, not place their hand over their heart or drop onto one knee when the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag is being recited or the Star Spangle Banner is being performed are not unpatriotic, disrespectful to our Veterans or do not recognize the flag as their own; they are frustrated by the fact that the promises and ideals wrapped into the Pledge of Allegiance and the Star Spangle Banner “ring hollow” when defenseless Black men and women are still being killed by individuals who had sworn to uphold the law, and justice has not prevailed. The defiance that has been demonstrated has achieved its purpose; it has gotten America’s attention. Attention should not be focused only on the defiant act but should be extended to place a spotlight on the hypocrisy that is being unmasked.
Outrage that has been expressed after some of the demonstrations, by athletes and others, accuse them of having no respect for the “history and heritage” of America … that history includes slaughtering Native Americans and stealing their land, and importing slaves from Africa to labor, serve, harvest, build and develop America into the magnificent country that it has become. Obviously America is not what it was but it also is not what it should be. When “you know better, you should be doing better”. Anti-discrimination laws and voting rights have been enacted, Blacks have more opportunities to contribute their talents in all sectors of society — education, business, politics, religion, government, etc., but Blacks continue to be underrepresented at the upper echelon of those sectors. The how’s and why’s of the inequality are understood by those who have lived it and by those have empathy, openness and the interest to learn.
The act of “taking a knee”, sitting down, speaking out or otherwise being noticed in a forum where attention can be brought to legitimate grievances is not a display of disrespect towards the flag, the pledge of allegiance, the Star Spangle Banner, veterans or fellow patriots! Listen to what the “protestors” say; they profess their love for this country that allows them the right to peacefully protest and demonstrate. I am a veteran; my father was one of the first Black U.S. Marines, who returned from the Pacific WW II theater to be cursed and spat on by white men; my son is a Marine, who served several tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am not offended by these demonstrations but I am offended by the distraction from the message that is trying to be highlighted, with accusations of “disrespect”, “unpatriotic behavior”, etc.
We need to have honest, open conversations about the “racial divide” in America; the dilemmas that Black Americans continue to confront, despite the enactment of laws that were meant to dismantle discriminatory practices that forced Black Americans to be “second class citizens”. I am continually frustrated by white friends and acquaintances who declare, “I don’t believe that! “, when I share with them some of the unjust things that I have been subjected to throughout my life, only because I am a Black male. We will never be understood unless we are listened to. Those who want to understand must listen with an open mind. You can’t have an open mind if you feel that you have to be “defensive”.
There are perspectives that I would like to share but I am not gifted with the communication skills to do so adequately but I would like to recommend two books that are authored by individuals who communicate well. These books unpack truths that may be uncomfortable to some, but if you chose to read the books, and are able to complete them, you will experience “growth”.
The recommended books are:
Tears We Cannot Stop (A Sermon To White America) – By: Michael Eric Dyson
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Age of Color Blindness – By: Michelle Alexander