EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of We Are The Mighty.
Thank you for using your platform to highlight a societal ill that needs our national attention and action to address and improve matters pertaining to equal justice under the law. Many will take issue with the manner of your “protest” and may never entertain the issue at the heart of your statement. These fellow Americans may have a concern about the nature of your protest rather than the substance of your protest.
I applaud you for risking the sure backlash and knee-jerk disdain sure to come for any American who dares to highlight an issue during the National Anthem. Because you are not a professional protestor, your methods may be crude and course. Because you are a professional athlete, your words may not convey the precise intent of your protest. But because you are an American, you have the right to express your thought or voice in a manner available to you. Some will offer advice on how to protest in a manner that is less upsetting to them and their sensibilities.
This misses the point of social protest. It is to awaken those very sensibilities and highlight the moral deficit in our social fabric. There are not many avenues or ways for a social minority to highlight an issue to the majority. Our shared history, our American history is replete with examples worthy of outrage and protest that caused no action or discussion by the majority.
A notable example is the story of Emmet Till. Many are not aware that the injustice endured by the murder, disfigurement, mutilation and hatred visited on a 14-year-old boy and his family, were the chief impetus to the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. In short, this 14-year-old boy was kidnapped from his home and killed. The assailants were known and a mock trial held. No convictions were given.
Your protest method is not innovative but has been shown to be effective in generating discussion. A similar example is Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympic Games.
Many will accuse you of nefarious motives and unpatriotic underpinnings. Many will look to dissect your background for failings to lessen your protest moment. Many will discount your intended message because of your delivery (manner and voice). And many will never look to address the intent of the protest because that is hard and dismissing is easy.
In addition, not having a difficult discussion is easier than acknowledging a perspective not shared. Said another way is that the experiences that are not shared by the majority are often deemed non-existent. My nation, our nation, needs to continue the work to improve our social fabric and the actions of its institutions and agents to better provide equal justice. America, in its history, has made great strides in integrating many cultures, religions, and traditions.
America has led the world in demonstrating democracy in action. America has often led the world in being a champion for human rights and dignity. America is the greatest nation in this world and remains a beacon of hope for many people enduring deep levels of oppression.
While your manner of protest is not what I or many others would choose, I support you in this effort to highlight the need for a national engagement on the issue of equal justice. To those reading this letter, this is a call for us work together to discuss the issue, understand the perspectives/history and bring ideas and solutions to improve our America. I love my country and stand ready to serve again. This is the work needed to push us forward in making our nation a “more perfect union.”
Arthur Billingsley is a retired Navy commander, graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School with a Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and Auburn University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering. He’s currently working as an IT professional in northern Florida.