Maybe the more effective plan would have been for Kaepernick to hold a press conference – maybe an interview on ESPN – explaining his valid concerns. Get team management on board. Before the Anthem the announcer says, “Let’s all support Colin Kaepernick taking a knee in silence in his effort to bless America with awareness of today’s social injustice; he shares with us his vision of our cherished American melting pot bonding together with commitment to further our progress and leading the world as an example of how people of different races and religions can live together in harmony.” Then he stands, holds his hand on his heart during the Anthem, and wins some football games.
Can you imagine the offers for press conferences, radio interviews, local/network news, television shows, comparisons to Martin Luther King; he would enjoy a super star platform to spotlight his vision. That’s what I wish he did. But he didn’t. What he did is viewed by many as highly divisive, taints the social injustice discussion, and sets dangerous precedent for future protests irrespective of the message. For these reasons, rational learned people should reject the premise that merely disagreeing with Colin Kaepernick’s means of protesting is itself racism.
Colin Kaepernick’s detractors claim he has no voice to claim he is being oppressed when making tens of millions playing football. That argument ignores his position. He doesn’t argue he is oppressed; he argues for awareness that the police seem to unfairly target and mistreat black men. His message expands to the concept that black America suffers from many social problems needing attention.
Can we say in good conscience, “all Trump voters and Americans opposing the knee revolution are racists?” No, that’s a divisive and sweeping generalization lacking relevance and reason. Nor can we deny the injustice black America faces. The recent explosion of police officers criminally charged, including murder, is shocking. Likewise, the rate of acquittals supported by overwhelming evidence suggests the then leadership in America may have race baited facts, and rushed to conclusions to deliver false narratives; perhaps those leaders bear blame for manufacturing a seemingly modern race war.
No matter your opinion, can we agree to the fact that social injustice exists and Americans are better off by acknowledging it, understanding it, and growing as a nation to overcome its presence?
Will Americans reach social justice by claiming all [insert group here] are racists? Is that the way to smooth talk America into supporting your cause? No. Can we agree that although most recent criminal charges against the police were acquitted after considering the facts, there exists bigotry and unfair treatment towards African Americans, and any amount of unfair treatment is unacceptable?
It’s been argued that unfair treatment of black Americans is partially because black Americans are statistically more likely to commit crimes. Opponents of that position argue that black America is simply more likely to be charged for their crimes because of the structure of our criminal justice system. Consider the war on drugs where some researchers postulate that Caucasians were not less likely to use drugs, but rather the type of drug the law declared problematic was more prevalent in black communities resulting in more men of color being imprisoned. Even if black Americans are statistically more likely to commit crimes, it is not mutually exclusive to the conclusion that effective change is needed. Indeed, observing this statistic supports the notion that better understanding the causes of social injustice should be the focal point of today’s discussion. Why is this not the question people are asking? Is there something about inner-city culture that fosters high crime rates or is our criminal justice system designed to criminalize people of color more so than Caucasians, or both?
The progressive movement forwards the radical idea that all Americans (and maybe illegal immigrants as well) should get free college. As unrealistic as it may be, perhaps there is a more reasonable version focusing its benefit on oppressed communities. Can late-night television and entertainers change the culture of inner-cities by spreading the message that education is good and can lead to an enriched crime free family life in middle America with a house, steady employment, little league, and the PTA? Hollywood should be spreading this message instead of its barrage of “we hate President Trump” that serves to further the divide. Perhaps this is not the message in part because the message has no teeth when education seems out of reach to so many. Many students identifying with an oppressed community understand the value of education but don’t have the same opportunities or access to resources that more privileged students have. Does our education system contain systemic and institutional policies that make it harder for them to succeed?
This message will be better received in black communities if it were supported with an offer from President Trump to include in his tax plan guaranteed loans to oppressed communities for junior college and trade schools. These Americans could then have both opportunity to convert their loans to grants, and obligation to earn that grant by working for a state, federal, or municipal government for some period after graduation. This serves to provide free college and training to new high school graduates while enriching our government function with a young, eager, educated work force. The result, hope; more opportunity for inner-city Americans to be educated and trained for lifetime employment helping to reduce the despair that sometimes leads to gang affiliations and drug use.
I don’t have the answers to this difficult problem, but I believe that working together with rational action plans will be infinitely better for America than lobbing names, blames, and labels at each other. Please, America, let’s grow up.
What changes are necessary to reduce social injustice? When a person looks at a black/white/orange person, they should see an American and not a redneck who probably voted for Trump and deserves to get shot, or a black man probably on welfare, or a religion causing them discomfort. What can we do so that Americans don’t see race and religion, and don’t treat others in manner consistent with radical generalizations? Please, main stream media, let’s abandon the divisive name calling and personal attacks and instead adopt a nationwide conversation to brain-storm suggestions focused on engineering hope!
If I were President, I’d start the conversation with the following message to Hollywood: “I invite anyone truly interested in helping those communities in need to work together, with me, toward solutions designed to change the American experience and combat social injustice. Let’s work together, not against each other; you spread the message that school is good and I will make education for inner cities part of the tax bill. From there we will consider other solutions to overcome social injustice in all phases of American life. This is just a start; please join me to bring America together.”
When negotiating, a party is more likely to convince her opponent to consider her argument if the opposing party first believes that she understands its position. Maybe America needs to step back and each side, without agreeing, acknowledges the positions and concerns of the other side. This process is likely to result in common ground. Let’s unite to that common ground as our bridge, no matter how small it may be. From there we build on small successes until that that bridge is sufficiently strong to heal our nation’s social injustice problems. This may take years or decades, but beginning the process now is in the best interest of all Americans.
America can and should be the beacon of light leading the world by example for how people of all races and religions can live together peacefully and seamlessly. We can attain that leadership if America changes its social narrative from the prevalent name calling blame game, to a solutions focused discussion asking whether social injustice has been institutionalized in America, and if so, considering macro-level solutions to effect needed change.
The point of this editorial is not to convince anyone to agree with specific opinions, nor am I taking sides. Rather, I seek to advance the belief that anything designed to sincerely start a partnership between all Americans must begin with: 1) acknowledging all views and concerns, on both sides, 2) admitting we all share in the blame, all of us, and 3) agreeing to change the narrative of America from hating those with opposing political ideologies to a discussion about mutual goals, and then working together to further our nation’s progress in combating social injustice. All Americans benefit from unity among our many races and religions. This is our heritage, and we can only do this by working together. After all, some smart cookie once said we are “stronger together,” and together we can “make America great.”
Whitney Sorrell is a lawyer, CPA, and former IRS Revenue Agent and senior partner of Sorrell Law Firm, PLC, in Scottsdale, AZ. Mr. Sorrell’s law practice focuses on business organizations and federal tax planning, IRS dispute resolution, asset protection planning for small business owners, and estate planning for nigh net worth individuals.