Protest Ain’t Pretty, But It Works. Just Ask the U.S.

President Trump recently lambasted the NFL owners for agreeing to not require players to stand for the national anthem. I think a different outcome would’ve been full of legal challenges, but despite that, the owners made it clear they sided with those ballers who felt it their right and privilege to exercise that form of protest. I’m sure by now you know the background of this story so I won’t rehearse it again except to say that the original intent of the “kneeling” protest was about injustice. That the values, rights, and privileges symbolized by the flag are not experienced equally among all community groups. But somehow kneeling during the national anthem became framed as disrespectful to the men and women whose commitment to this country is often paid for in blood. In fact, those choosing to protest in this manner were called “Sons of Bitches” by none other than the President of the United States.

Some weeks earlier, a group of white nationalists marched into Charlottesville Virginia to protest the removal of Confederate statues. They deem those statues as historical artifacts, that they represent an aspect of this country that’s worth preserving. That protest was met with counter-protestors during which time a young white nationalist drove his car into a crowd of counter-protestors killing a woman and injuring others. President Trump, however, refused to initially condemn that protest and rather said both groups shared equal responsibility. He would go on to say “there were very fine people” in the white nationalists’ march. I won’t argue the obvious moral contrasts here except to call attention to the response of the President when faced with a challenge to a constitutional right versus a personal point of view.

Most protests stir up feelings of anger and disdain especially when it interrupts routine activities or contrasts with the moment. Many wish protestors would just disappear and never come back. Trump wanted the players to be fired immediately and told to get off the field before the start of the game. The Mayor of Charlottesville told the Nationalist protestors, “they were not welcome”.

Protests are inconvenient, usually, about an uncomfortable subject, can cause resentment and can become violent and/or destructive. In short, protests are anything but pretty. This country was founded on the heels of a protest that erupted into what became known as the Boston Tea Party. And that protest was a spark that would ultimately lead to the Declaration of Independence.