In an editorial, Trump, out for himself, inflames racial tensions. Again, the New Jersey Star-Ledger wrote about the controversy surrounding Trump’s comments regarding NFL players kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem, rather than saluting the American Flag:
But when African-American players in the NFL silently take a knee during the national anthem to peacefully protest the undeniable racism in our criminal justice system, he [Trump] fumes, he rants, and he whips up hatred against them to fire up his base.
Maybe. But what about the purpose of the actual protest? The Star-Ledger seems to support the substance of the players’ protest that triggered Trump’s rants. The Star-Ledger goes on to say:
Sports teams began playing the anthem before games in 1918, during World War I. To many Americans, it remains a solemn moment, a time to offer gratitude to veterans, and to celebrate the freedoms we enjoy today.
But others see it as a political expression, one that suggests support for America's conduct, like the pledge of allegiance. Jackie Robinson, a genuine hero who was booed and spit on by racist fans, never saluted the flag or sang the anthem. "I am a black man in a white world," he said.
I left these comments, edited for clarity:
There’s no question the NFL players have a right to kneel in protest during the National Anthem, so long as it doesn’t violate their contracts.
But they’ve got their principles exactly backward. The flag and National Anthem stand for the principles that are the cure for racial injustice, such as equality before the law crystallized in the 14th Amendment.
The flag is these players’ best ally. They should take a page from the book of Frederick Douglass, an ex-slave-turned-leading abolitionist intellectual who embraced America’s Founding documents as the best weapon against slavery; from Martin Luther King, who cited “the magnificent words” of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as proof that it was not American ideals that failed black Americans, but the failure to live up to those ideals; from Sarah Grimke, who emulated the Abolitionist Movement and drew on the Declaration to lead the fight for women's suffrage; from Harvey Milk, an early leader of the “gay pride” movement that led to marriage equality, who said at a 1978 rally:
In the Declaration of Independence it is written “All men are created equal and they are endowed with certain inalienable rights . . . .” That’s what America is. No matter how hard you try, you cannot erase those words from the Declaration of Independence.
That! Not “racism in our criminal justice system,” is what America is, even if we still haven’t fully lived up to it. Jackie Robinson is a hero of mine. But he was wrong if he said America is “a white world.” The cultural racists tried to make it one, and succeeded for a while. But it couldn’t last—and didn’t in baseball. Why? Because two courageous men, one a black player and the other a white owner (Branch Rickey), were able to break the color barrier despite massive cultural resistance. Only in America. Only because of what the flag and the Anthem represent—individual rights, protected equally for all people at all times. America was never established to be a white world. It was established based on the Declaration of Independence, the philosophical blueprint of the Constitution.
To the NFL kneelers and their supporters I say, “You’re protesting the solution, not the cause.”
I want to stress that I do not endorse the players’ contention that “racism in our criminal justice system” is “undeniable.” It may exist. But to what extent, I don’t know. My personal view is that it probably does exist. But so does injustice toward the police, who appear often to be accused (falsely) of racism for doing their jobs.