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 Above: a screen grab from this YouTube video about the NFL protest.

A lot of people think of our president as a divider, but last weekend he did a frightfully good job of uniting much of professional sports against him. Following his criticism of football player protests in general and Colin Kaepernick in particular, a significant portion of the NFL protested back at him. NBA and MLB players, too. In the NFL, players and coaches—and even owners!—demonstrated against Trump’s bullying.

In case you just woke from a deep sleep, the commotion this time is Trump’s demand that NFL teams “fire or suspend” players who kneel or sit during the national anthem. He even suggested that they were risking a fan boycott. Right, that’ll happen.

I’ve been a Forty Niners fan since the eighties, but over time the brain injury news has dampened my enthusiasm. (Admission: near-constant losing hasn’t helped, either.) Trump dismissed the brain injury issue as fake news, during the campaign and again this weekend.

Was this Trump’s clever distraction from the escalating war of words with Kim Jong-un? It’s not the first time he’s criticized Kaepernick. Or the NFL, for that matter, for trying to limit the brain injuries that its players suffer. Wimps, he cries! Hit harder! …from his air-conditioned viewing box.

My favorite headline: “Trump Tries to Sack NFL, NBA” Emphasis on tries. And the most apt view came in this tweet from former Obama advisor Ben Rhodes:

Oh wait, I almost forgot Trump’s petulant disinvitation of Stephen Curry and the NBA champion Golden State Warriors. Stars Curry and Kevin Durant had already announced that they weren’t going, but of course Donald could not be outdone.

Sheesh, this self-admitted first grader leads my country?

“This is about respect for the military, the first responders,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin offered on a Sunday morning news show, attempting to echo Trump’s confidence in the lie.

No, Mr. Mnuchin. No, Mr. Trump. No. It is not about respect or disrespect for either of those groups. One more time: it’s about unarmed black men being shot to death by police at traffic stops. It’s about the systemic racism that creates the conditions for that kind of horror. And many other horrors.

You’ve forgotten already? Show me one damned cell phone video—or one news story—about an unarmed white man killed by police at a traffic stop, and you might have an argument. But you don’t, because you can’t.

How how how is it that so many whites, usually men, assume that anyone wanting the same civil rights as they have, is stepping on them? I’ll tell you. It’s the same reason that gay-hating religious conservatives think that they are the victims when ordered to not discriminate…

When everyone has the same privileges, there can be no white privilege. There can be no religious privilege. Somehow, and I cannot quite explain how, granting all my rights to others reduces my rights. Even though I know damn well that it doesn’t.

Christianity’s tenants teach inclusion, but much of its practice these days seems to exemplify exclusion. People need to compete with each other, yes, to win and lose, yes, but not all the damn time. If we could just live together and support each other without always having to be better than them.

This gets to something that I think is still missing from the kneel-for-the-anthem protests. I want to see white players kneeling too. I’ve heard the argument that they don’t because they fear co-opting a Black protest. White appropriation. That’s possible, but IMO it’s a charitable take.

I think the reason is fear. White people who support the principles of Black Lives Matter—say, people like me—refrain from public demonstrations out of fear.

Today, my fiction writer’s imagination placed me at a high school football game where I took a knee during the National Anthem, and the big beefy guy behind me jerked me to my feet by my collar. I’ve read about that really happening. I turned around and kneed him in the balls. “Don’t you touch me!” And thus began a bone-breaking sidelines brawl before the game had even started.

Thankfully, all this took place only in my imagination. But it makes me wonder if I would be willing to protest like that in real life—and what would happen next if I did. I want to express solidarity with the black community, with the black men who are dying at traffic stops. But I’m a scared little honky when it comes to actually putting my own safety on the line.

Even if my conscious mind won’t admit it, I’m aware of my white privilege—my safe passage, uncontested, through so many daily events—and I’m afraid to lose it. That old liberal saw about “If one of us is discriminated against, all of us are”—that’s bullshit.

I’m beginning to think that Boston poet and Black Lives Matter activist Didi Delgado was correct when she wrote: “All white people are racist. Start from this reference point, or you’ve already failed.” I don’t want this to be true, and therein lies the problem. Recognition shouldn’t be an act of shame, but of enlightenment. When whites cannot reframe that Act of Shame, they cannot accept its truth.

The annoyed response “Well, all Lives Matter” demonstrates a common misunderstanding about the Black Lives Matter movement. No shit, Sherlock; the police already know that white lives matter. You can ask any of the half-dozen police who have ticketed me for speeding over the years—and chose to not shoot white me during the traffic stop.

I’m willing to complain long and loud about injustice to black people because I’m doing it through this column, almost anonymously. Would I be willing to stand on a red state sidewalk soapbox and read my own words to the masses? Probably not. So how can I criticize other whites for not committing in a way that I cannot myself commit? Maybe I’m preaching to myself, too.

I’ve done a lot of it, with no plan to stop:

Guns Don’t Kill, Culture Does (Part One)

We Should All Kneel During the Anthem

The Issue is Still Guns

Game of Tribes

In this photo of the Oakland Raiders, I do see a couple of white players sitting with their black teammates, presumably during the anthem. It’s a start. But good lord, read the Comments below that photo, if you can stomach that much ignorant white hatred.

It’s heartbreaking but true: racism is as American as the Constitution, as the Chinese Exclusion Act, as Jim Crow and so many other “legal” ways that Americans have found to be practice prejudice.

Trump asked if statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were next on the tear-down list, because they owned slaves. I want to ask if we can just look our history straight in the eye and admit that there’s a shameful amount of innocent blood in the corridors of our shining city on a hill.

For example, just when I think I’ve wrapped my head around our genocide of the American Indian, here comes an article that makes me ashamed to be white. Again. It concerns a legal battle over the copyrighted names of concessions and accommodations in Yosemite Valley. Read the essence in these two paragraphs:

“I dearly hope Delaware North loses [its copyright lawsuit], but I also hope that the National Park Service sticks with the new names, however ridiculous — and, while they’re at it, changes dozens of others. My vote would be to change Tenaya Lake to Pywiack Lake, relabel Yosemite Valley itself Ahwahnee and sprinkle the park with new historical plaques saying things like “On this spot, in 1851, American militiamen shot Tenaya’s son in the back, let him bleed out in the grass, then dragged Tenaya up to have a look and enjoyed watching him weep.”

That wouldn’t right the historical wrongs of genocide and land theft any more than removing a statue of Robert E. Lee from a park in Charlottesville, Va., atones for centuries of slavery. But it might help replace the white-supremacist fantasy version of history with a version more aligned to universal human values, not to mention reality. It would also enrich our understanding of our shared history.”

We can’t change our past. We can acknowledge it and resolve to do better in the future.

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Written by

Steve Schlich is retired after 35 years of writing fiction about software: “easy to use,” “does what you want,” and the like. Hobbies include webmaster for www.RodSerling.com, writing songs and short stories. In 2004, he created www.NakedWashington.com, a website chronicling the naughty public art in Washington, D.C. He lives happily with his wife and cats, north of San Francisco.

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