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Taking a stand while sitting

By Dr. E. Faye Williams
On September 9, 2016

Dr. E. Faye Williams

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Rosa Parks and Colin Kaepernick got tired of racism and sat down to protest it. While some of us stand up for a cause, standing is not the only answer for calling attention to an issue. Rosa and Colin chose sitting. Protesters choose their own methods.

Are we all required to stand up and put our hands over our hearts when we’re not feeling so good about what the flag has represented historically for us? Most of us can rattle off a lot of flag wavers who are certified racists and they don’t mind going to any extreme to prove it. Their actions often are far more dangerous and distasteful than sitting.

We’ve come a long way toward equality, but we are not there yet. Whether we wave a flag or not, there is no rational argument against African Americans being the most loyal citizens in this country under difficult circumstances. Even when we’ve been denied the basic right of being treated as human beings and when our ancestors were enslaved, we worked hard to build this country. Black soldiers have fought and died on the front lines for this country. I do stand when the national anthem is played, but not because I am feeling that I’ve had such great treatment or been the beneficiary of all the privileges of citizenship. When I stand, I don't see the need to put my hand over my heart. Maybe that’s my protest. Colin chose to sit. That’s his right.

Yes, I would rather live here than any place I’ve ever visited, but that does not mean I’m required to forget about how my people were enslaved, how they suffered under Jim Crow laws, how they were denied opportunities through segregation, and how to this day, we've had to fight for simple rights that others enjoy simply because they are Americans. There are days when we might feel good about America, like when America, with strong help from other non-White and a few White people, elected President Barack Obama, but there are days when we don't feel so good about America with good reason.

Our nation was built upon protest. Around the world, we profess to be a free country with human rights, with the right to differ from our government. Are we what we say we are if we deny some the right of protest? I support Kaepernick's right to sit or stand, but more than that, I support him on the issue for which he chose not to stand. How he chose to express his concern is not nearly as important to me as the reason for which he remained seated – simple equality for all Americans.

Just listen to the news each day to see how disrespectful many Americans are to non-White people. Many of us have stopped counting the times and the ways we’ve been disrespected simply because we’re not White, and others disrespect most women because we’re not male. Being both a woman and African American, there’re some pretty rough days for many of us in this country. Even White women are still trying to gain the same rights that men get, and continue to express the need for an equal rights amendment in the US Constitution. Can you believe we are still half slave and half free in the land of the brave and home of the free? And now, there are those who object to our right to object.

Just as I applaud protesters for civil and human rights, women's rights, immigrant rights, workers’ rights and more, I applaud Kaepernick exercising his right to protest, showing that he knows more about what it means to be an American and the definition of freedom than his critics.

Dr. E. Faye Williams is National President of the National Congress of Black Women.

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