Getting Into Arguments On The Internet

Something about white people complaining about black people’s forms of protest really turns me into Steve Rogers.

Allow me to explain. Before Steve Rogers received the injections of serum that transformed him into Captain America, he was still a person who stood up for what he believed in. This often led to him getting into fights with people.


Steve, wobbling after getting nailed in the face and claiming, “I can do this all day,” is what I feel like when I decide to take on white people on the internet, specifically those who I am acquainted with on Facebook. It is always surprising to me when the friends of those people concede by saying something like, “We’ll never agree.”

I got into it with one woman and, after listing off some of the things she does/did, like teach at a Title I school and volunteer at a soup kitchen, I asked her what she was doing to end racial injustice. I encouraged her to check out Showing Up for Racial Justice. Her response was “I vote. Good bye.”

Here is another case:

A guy[1] that I had known from church youth group back in the day (a hive of hormones and awkwardness if there ever was one) voiced his frustration with how football players are kneeling during the national anthem as a form of protest against racial injustice and police brutality. He especially takes issue with Kaepernick’s assertion that the U.S. flag symbolizes police brutality and racial injustice (I pointed out that free speech allows for such claims and he said that “free speech based on a false premise is just wrong”). He also relayed a story about how he got punched by a black guy and called ‘whitey’ and ‘cracker’ and did not fight back though he was a “victim of race.”

His first statement was, “Better to protest gang violence in the inner cities than a whole nation that has given so many life liberty and a pursuit of happiness” [sic throughout his quotes].

My reply, “Why not both? You can be upset about more than one issue at a time, especially if you do not feel that you are among the ‘so many’ that are given inalienable rights.”

I shall now intersperse my comments to the statement he made in response to my comment. His statement is in bold.

“Again he should be going to those people in their community and teaching them how they can climb out from where they are….many don’t know how…”

There is an assumption that if someone is a person of color, they are also poor and/or live in the inner city. It is easy to say that it is a matter of educating people to climb up and out of difficult circumstances. But that is predicated on the belief that we are on an equal playing field (we are not), that we all have access to the same resources (we do not), and that discrimination on the basis of skin color is all but gone (it is not). 

While class and race are interrelated and intertwined, we should not conflate them or confuse one for the other. The problem is systemic and the cycle of poverty is difficult for people of any race to break. It’s not a matter of telling kids in the community “Be good! Go to school! Don’t do drugs! Drink your milk!” They KNOW how to do those things. They know that will help them succeed. But there are *structural* components at work – going to poor schools with few resources and overcrowded classrooms, jobs that do not pay enough, food deserts leading to a lack of healthy options, etc. – that agency cannot readily overcome. 

by protesting our national anthem you protest the country it stand for,  the problem is not our country but more how to help those in need…

That is exactly his point. He is protesting racial injustice and police brutality. I would argue that racial injustice has become part of the fabric of our country (the U.S. has the highest number of incarcerated people and people of color are largely overrepresented while whites are underrepresented). As a white person with privilege, the way I can help is by being an ally to the cause. An ally is not a savior figure, swooping in to help people of color in need. 

even he himself a person of color has come out of a lot, being he was even adopted…such low class to “protest” during 9-11, 

Kaepernick was raised by white parents in Wisconsin. From what I understand, he did not have the rough upbringing that, for instance, LeBron James had. 

He didn’t just start protesting on 9/11. It sucks that 9/11 and football coincided this year.
I didn’t put this, but I thought about it: One of my best friend’s birthdays is on 9/11. He is still going to eat cake even though it is really sad that people died.

again if he is so upset then he should have not even gone to the game and instead gone to the communities to help, so easy to protest as a millionair who gets way more than 1 mill….it is sad…

Indeed, it would be revolutionary if the black football players who protested decided as a group to not play. But quitting overall would take away his platform. His platform is the only reason we are having this discussion. No one gives a flip if I don’t stand for the national anthem at home. 

Yes, he makes a lot of money. That does not mean he is not risking sponsorships (see: Broncos player). The amount of money professional athletes make (except for female soccer players, natch) is unbelievable, especially when you consider what they provide to society versus what doctors, teachers, sanitation workers, etc. provide to society. It’s hard to use “he makes so much money” as an argument when we, as a society, have proven time and time again that we prioritize professional athletes. Yes, it is easier, in theory, to protest if you have a lot of money to fall back on. But if that is truly the case, if protesting is so much easier for the wealthy, then why don’t we see the wealthy engaging in acts of protest? 

but I know we will never agree, but the solution is to not protest a country that gives rights to all….but i have had this argument with many and my voice can never be heard because apparently I am white and have no voice in this conversation or else I will be consider racist…so i will remain silent

The point of his protest and the others alongside him is to say, “Hey, wait a second, we are all Americans, but we actually don’t all have access to the same rights.” Rights like being able to count on not getting shot by an officer if you are unarmed. 

The Washington Post reported on July 11:

“U.S. police officers have shot and killed the exact same number of unarmed white people as they have unarmed black people: 50 each. But because the white population is approximately five times larger than the black population, that means unarmed black Americans were five times as likely as unarmed white Americans to be shot and killed by a police officer.” 

If that was the situation for people who looked like you, and it was a situation that did not appear to be getting any better, wouldn’t you want to say something? Wouldn’t you want to take a stand and use the means you have to speak out — even if it was unpopular? 

Or, let’s bring this even closer to home. Imagine that Christians start getting persecuted. Christian parents would tell their children to be respectful of the religion-police. Christian parents would tell their children to avoid certain behaviors around non-Christians so that they don’t appear threatening. Non-Christians would staunchly maintain that the U.S. guarantees a right to freedom of religion, but Christians would know that it was true only under certain circumstances. If the Christians acted non-Christian, they were ok and accepted in society… but then they might be ostracized among their fellow Christians for acting “non-Christian.” Christians would develop a double consciousness, keeping in mind how the non-Christian society viewed them and how they viewed themselves. Frustrated by being told that they have the freedom of religion granted to them as Americans, yet knowing that they really can’t exercise that freedom fully, someone decides to speak up. “Hey! Being a Christian in America isn’t really that great right now, what with the religion-cism and all. It hurts when a Christian is killed by the religion-police and no one from the religion-police faces any punishment. It makes me feel unequal to the non-Christians! America itself isn’t living up to its end of the bargain for me since Christians like me are oppressed. Since that’s the way it’s going to be, I’m not going to show pride in a country that treats me as less than all because I am a Christian.” Wouldn’t you want to be that person who speaks out? Perhaps you would not choose to reject patriotism, but would you really want to show pride in a country that wasn’t all that great for people like you? Maybe you would. Maybe your allegiance to country outweighs your identity as a Christian in this hypothetical situation. 

In Kaepernick’s case, his identity as a black man outweighs his display of allegiance to his country. Personally, I don’t blame him. 

It comes down to privilege. I strongly encourage you to read Peggy McIntosh’s “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” My undergrads find it quite illuminating, albeit somewhat dated. 

I am sorry that you feel silenced on the issue of racial justice in the U.S. and that you think you will be called a racist for speaking about them. What I have learned is that sometimes, when I feel unjustly silenced (especially as a white person), it actually means that I need to listen. I do more research. I read about the issue from those impacted. In this case, it would entail reading books, articles, blogs, etc. by people of color. I also read more about privilege and structures of power and how they relate to me. I think about why it is that I am offended and how that related to the scope of things going on in the country and the world. I use my sociological imagination – it means acknowledging that one’s personal troubles can be, and often are, public issues. 

You want racial unity, yes? That doesn’t mean a color-blind world (Racism without Racists by Bonilla-Silva is a fascinating read). It means acknowledging difference, appreciating diversity, and working to even the playing field for all. That means white folks also taking a chance, standing up (or kneeling, as it were), and saying “This isn’t right.” The 49ers owner, Jed York, has done this. Megan Rapinoe did this. As privilege holders, white people can either help or hinder the cause of racial justice. We can either get super upset about an act of civil disobedience and refuse to do anything because we don’t like the act, or we can take a step back, listen, and ask “How can I help?”

[1] From perusing his Facebook, I believe he is Eastern Orthodox now (we were Methodist back in the day). He reads Ayn Rand. He now lives in Idaho.

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