By Chris Lahr
The Issue at hand…
The story of the NFL this season, other than the rookie QB sensation out of Philadelphia, has been the backup QB out of San Francisco Colin Kaepernick. There’s no way he could have foreseen the impact his action would have made in our country as the announcer asked everyone in the stadium to stand for the National Anthem. As the crowd stood to pledge their allegiance, Kaepernick took a stand by sitting on his butt. The cameraman picked up on it and by the end of the game it was major news. Kaepernick explained his action, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game.
The immediate backlash came in the form of death threats, racist comments throughout social media, and an overall questioning of his patriotism. After further reflection, Kaepernick decided to take a knee during the anthem as opposed to sitting, to show he does care for this country and the men and women that serve it. He is not anti-American; he is anti-injustice and is calling for a fairer America. It is because he cares, that he has decided to take a knee.
On September 23, Mike Flora of Pro Football Talk quoted Hall of Famer Mike Ditka as saying, “Anybody who disrespects this country and the flag. If they don’t like the country, they don’t like our flag, get the hell out.” He went on to say, “I have no respect for Colin Kaepernick,” Ditka added. “He probably has no respect for me, that’s his choice. My choice is that I like this country, I respect our flag, and I don’t see all the atrocities going on in this country that people say are going on.”
Though I love coach Ditka’s analysis on football, I feel his analysis on Kaepernick is off and yet it is reflective of too many of us white folks in this country. I want to reflect a moment on the whole notion of “getting the hell out,” as well as address his inability to “see all the atrocities going on in this country.”
The Colorblind Problem:
Coach Ditka is colorblind. The sad truth is that many white folks think being colorblind is a value worth holding on to. By being colorblind I am referring to white folks in particular that do not see cultural difference, or should I say ignore them. It sound’s noble to say something like, “I am not racist, and I do not even see color. We are all just American’s.” Over the year’s I have seen this become a dominating cultural value for many white folks. “Let’s get past race.” “We have a black President.” “Racism is a thing of the past, it is black folks that are making it a bigger issue than it needs to be.” The problem with being colorblind is you end up not “seeing all the atrocities going on in this country.” Real reconciliation should not lead us to ignore our differences and focus only on our commonalities, but it calls us to embrace our differences and to learn from diversity. Reconciliation calls white folks to take a knee next to Kaepernick to raise awareness of the racial disparities that are a reality in our nation. Reconciliation then calls for us to right wrongs, to end hate, to overcome our own prejudice, to see differences in others, to learn from others, to live justly with others. None of this will occur as long as we hold colorblindness as a cultural value.
“Get the hell out”
One outcome of being colorblind is having the “get the hell out,” attitude. This attitude is essentially a call for people to fall in line and “become like me,” or leave. We have a hard time with diversity in our nation. We say we are a diverse nation, but are we really? Even on Facebook we choose who are “friends” are and “unfriend” those with differing opinions. Many times we limit our social circles to reflect people who are just like us.
Many white folks think that diversity simply means “adding a little color.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. A few years ago I was on a predominantly white campus talking to one of the few African-American students about her experience on campus. She said things were fine as long as she acted white! She said that she had learned the importance of assimilation for survival. This is not diversity and this is not racial justice! Diversity isn’t just “adding color,” it is adding new voices, new perspectives, new culture, new joys, and new struggles. American history is rooted in the melting pot myth of assimilation that calls people to fall in line or to get the hell out.
Kaepernick and those in the Black Lives Matter movement long for a better America where diversity is appreciated and all people can thrive and live prosperous lives. I am a firm believer that God created all humanity in His image. Revelation 5 gives us a beautiful picture around the throne of God where all the people of the earth were represented. Our differences are not something to be feared, but rather we need to see each other as gifts from God. God is never pleased with injustice, and he is hearing the cries of injustice in our country and He will act.
I am grateful for Kaepernick’s stand for justice, along with the many other athletes throughout our country. It is not their fault that the response has lead to death threats, lynching threats, and sheer hatred.  The mere fact that these things exist shows that such a stand is needed. It should also be noted that this isn’t just a “black thing,” white people too need to take a knee and proclaim that we will not tolerate racism in its various forms any longer!
Chris and Lara Lahr live in Philadelphia, where they raise three daughters. They have been married twenty years, with 17 of them taking place in the city, where they reside. Lara is a community nurse working with babies and mamas in their neighborhood. She is currently going to school to become a midwife. Chris works with a non-profit called Timoteo (www.timoteosports.org).