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So What’s the Right Way to Protest?

He knelt down. He didn’t flip the bird, burn a flag, make giant social media post, write a think piece. He knelt during the national anthem. That was all Colin Kaepernick did. He exercised his right to free speech in a public space, and he got shit on for it. And our president, our president, referred to him as a “son of a bitch.”

What followed was numerous NFL teams not taking the field during the anthem as an act of solidarity. Some others knelt. Some locked arms (and I feel like it wasn’t enough, leading the tyrant to mistake their protest as standing up for the anthem and not a throwback to the first Civil Rights marches where protesters would lock arms while marching). Either way, it always leads to the inevitable moment where someone says,

“I wish they weren’t making sports so political.”

It’s like their saying, “You’re a football player. Just play the game. That’s what we’re paying you for. Not to think or feel, but to entertain us.”

“Be my fool. Entertain me.” (Reminds me so much up the poem “Be my Fool” by my friend Emily Joy, which you should totally listen to.)

Here’s something to think about, friends:

I’m white passing. Even with my filipinx and latinx heritage, my skin color has granted me priviledge to move through the world relatively unscathed. I don’t know what it’s like to be targeted by police or have my body be consumed and brutalized by culture. But I’ve got friends who tell me what it’s like to be viewed as different, to have their anger dismissed, to have their pain explained away by a snide comment.

To all my friends, especially my white friends, racism is real. And it is an issue that needs your attention. And polite dinner conversation hasn’t done it. Writing think pieces doesn’t seem to be doing a whole lot to reach white folks. Watching black bodies pile up in the street with no consequences to the cops doesn’t seem to be moving folks at all. So what? What will get your attention?

Apparently, someone peacefully kneeling during the national anthem.

I’ve had a ton of people who have said that they don’t understand why someone has to “disrespect the flag” in order to protest. They’ll say that it’s not the “right way to protest.”

So what would you have people do? What do you think would be the right way to do this?

Since posting stories online about police brutality isn’t “the right way,” what is?
And what about trying to educate people on the history of systemic racism in the US, like in Decoded with Francesca Ramsey, what would be a better way?
Or what about staying on sacred lands that you own and contracted to keep with the US government after they already stole your home from you?
Or what about asking to sit down at a counter in a diner to be served like everyone else like in the 1960s?
Or what about petitioning wanting equal opportunities for housing, employment, and protection under the law?
Or what about suing the state to get married to someone outside of your race?
Or what about peacefully marching?

Please, tell me. What is the right way to protest?

Do you know what the point of protesting is? It’s to get your attention. It’s to get you to see a glimpse of the pain that people in marginalized groups are feeling and then to ask a very, very important question.

Why? 

Why are people upset? Why are people in the streets? Why are people protesting? Why the riots? Why are they chanting “black lives matter?” Why are they saying, “No justice, no peace?”

Rather than getting upset at the manner in which people protest, the better question is to ask why people are upset, hurting, and calling for change. Because people don’t just protest for no reason! People aren’t getting maced for shits and giggles. People aren’t willing to get arrested because they think it’s revolutionary.

People are working to survive.

Now, my dear fellow Christians, here’s what is interesting:

Jesus was someone who was saying things that were so revolutionary, that he was arrested and killed. As were many of his followers. So wtf are we doing? 

If Jesus was arrested, if the early followers of Jesus were thrown into the colosseum to be devoured as sport, because they were moving power away from the empire and back to the people, why are we not doing something somewhat similar?

Jesus stood on the side of the oppressed, so if He were around today, I know he’d be standing in the picket lines with Black Lives Matter. I know he’d be protesting the travel ban at air ports. I know he’d be present for the Women’s March. I know he’d be getting maced with Native peoples protesting DAPL.

So here’s my challenge to you (and by you, I mostly mean white folks), if you’re someone who disagrees with someone kneeling during the national anthem or any of the other forms of protest we see today: Ask why. Google something. Ask your friends of color, your queer friends, the women in your life, people who are upset about the state of our country and the state of our world, “Why? Why are you upset? Why are you angry? Why do you protest? Why do you post the things you do?”

It’s going to be uncomfortable. But hopefully, like me, you’ll get wrecked in the best possible way, move past your guilt, and stand up for and with those whom God loves.

Too much has happened to keep ignoring it, dear one. It’s time to show up.

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