Monday, November 6, 2017

Monroe HS Flag Kneelers are Picking on the Wrong Target

The NFL Anthem protest reached the high school level in one NJ community. As Matthew Stanmyre reported for,

Members of the Monroe High School football team had been paying attention to racial, social and gender injustices around the nation and in their community. They were sharing their own personal stories and discussing the issues through text messages when one of the teenagers suggested taking a stand. What if they knelt during the national anthem before their games?

Several players did. (In response, two referees hired for the game walked off the field in protest of the kids’ protest. But that’s beside the point.) In support of their protest, the leader of the group and his father attempted to explain their reasoning:

“This was important to me because I feel like most minorities aren’t treated fairly, including women,” said Joshua Pemberton, a Monroe junior who is among the players who have knelt. “No one’s being treated fairly and no one does anything about this. It’s been like this for as long as I’ve been alive. I just felt like I had the power to try to change something and I want to do it.”

The Monroe players said their protest is about bringing attention to racial, social and gender injustices, and not meant to disparage the flag or military.

“That’s what I taught him to do — stand up for rights for himself and others,” said Pemberton’s father, Herb. “If one’s held back, we’re all held back. I’m aware of what he’s doing. He’s given it great thought. I’m proud of him.”

The New Jersey Star-Ledger weighed in with Fire the HS refs who walked away after anthem protest:

To some, messing with the anthem is almost sacrilege, a show of disrespect for the country, and especially for veterans who have sacrificed so much to defend it. But to others, standing for the anthem with a hand over the heart signals support for a status quo that is simply not acceptable.

Maybe the Lunardellis [the two referees] wouldn't be so militant if they spent a day looking over the many videos showing police officers killing and beating black suspects for no good reason, often without consequence. Maybe they could visit a prison in New Jersey and see that that blacks outnumber whites by a ratio of 12-1.

Donald Trump wants the NFL to fire players who take a knee. And what that tells us is that he, like the Lunardellis, has no clue what really makes America great. It's not about tribe, or blood, or land. It's about our ideals, and the rule of law.

This time, it seems, the grown-ups can learn something from the students.

Or maybe the grown-ups have something to teach the students.

I left these comments:

It doesn’t seem that these protesting players have thought the issue through.

The junior Joshua Pemberton asserts “No one’s being treated fairly.” What is meant by not “treated fairly?” Not treated fairly how? By whom? In personal circumstances, or by the law? How does he define “fair?” It’s vague, and thus meaningless.

His father Herb sheds some light on this; “That’s what I taught him to do — stand up for rights for himself and others.” Then why kneel for the National Anthem? America is founded on certain principles, the most basic being individual rights, held equally by everyone. Those principles, which include such values as freedom of speech and equal protection of the law, is what the flag stands for. Joshua protests that he was called the N-word. Yes, racial slurs are unfair—and the right to free speech properly protects it. But so does it protect Joshua’s right to fight back using his own free speech, which he holds equally with the offender. That’s why he’s allowed to kneel in protest. Are black suspects treated more harshly than others? We have a weapon—equality before the law. That’s what’s great about America—you can fight back against bad ideas, debate them openly with better ideas, and defeat them peacefully through reason and persuasion.

Those taking part in the kneeling protest are picking on the wrong target. The Founders established the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence upon which it stands to guarantee individual political freedom and equality. It was not then and never has been a clean uncomplicated fight, like throwing a knockout punch in a boxing ring. It’s a long hard fight. For centuries great fighters for justice in America (and elsewhere) have relied on the American principles embodied in these documents. People like Frederick Douglass and Abe Lincoln and Sarah Grimke and Calvin Coolidge and Martin Luther King and Harvey Milk did not see Americanism as the problem. To them and many others, the problem of injustice has always been with those who failed to live up to those principles.

Yes, America is “not about tribe, or blood, or land. It's about our ideals, and the rule of law.” Standing for the anthem with a hand over the heart does not signal support for an unjust status quo that violates those ideals. It signals support for political equality of individual freedom and justice. I stand for the Anthem because I believe in what the American Flag stands for; the solution, not the problem. So exactly what principles that the Flag and the Anthem stand for are these protesters kneeling in protest of?

Related Reading:

Constitutional Ignorance Led to a Tyranny of the Majority—Gary M. Galles


Mike Kevitt said...

I assume Monroe High school is a government school. If it is, anybody has the right to intellectually express his ideas freely, by kneeling in protest during the National Anthem or by mouthing Nazism. But, if it's a private high school, anybody's right of expression is subject to the policy of the administration of the school. Whoever doesn't like that policy can go somewhere else, to another private school, to a government school since we have them, or start up a new school.

Michael A. LaFerrara said...

Yes, it is a government school. I believe the principal allowed the protest.