Dear White People: You Don’t Get to Decide the Time and Manner of Civil Rights Protests

Every single push for equality and justice in the history of this country, if not the world, has been greeted with those who are not the victims of the inequality and injustice being protested with cries of “now is not the time” or “this is not the way to do it.” Matt Calkins, a Seattle Times sports columnist — and a white guy, of course — says NFL players should stop kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice.

I don’t know how effective this new NFL anthem policy is going to be. I don’t know what sidelines are going to look like when “The Star Spangled Banner” blares next season. I don’t know how the majority of players feel about the owners’ decision, nor do I know what most fans think.

Here’s what I do know: It’s best for everyone if the anthem protests stop.

Sentences such as the one above are among the most polarizing in sports these days. One sect of the country seethes at the kneeling/sitting/fist-raising that takes place during Francis Scott Key’s tune. Another sect views such gestures as a necessary stance against oppression.

But nearly two years after Colin Kaepernick started sports’ most controversial trend, I’ve reached two conclusions regarding this topic: 1) The protests are hurting viewership; and 2) There are more effective ways for players to speak their minds.

I’ve got news for you, Matt: You have no say in this matter. You are not a victim of racial injustice. You don’t have to fear for your life every time a cop pulls you over. You don’t have to worry about your sons and brothers and fathers being gunned down by police officers when they’re just going about their day. The people who are doing the protesting? They have to worry about all of that and more. They are the victims of racial bigotry that is so ingrained in this society, so systematically enforced, that it’s like the water in fish tank to the fish. Those people have a say.

I am reminded of Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, in which he addresses this very “not now, not in this way” tactic of alleged allies:

“Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was ‘well timed’ in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.'”

I rest my case. White people, just stop with this nonsense.

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