Bill Bennett, who somewhere along the line went from being a serious figure to being just another far-right carnival barker on the political midway, spoke at the Values Voters Summit and said that the NFL protesters just don’t understand America.
He added that the players who are protesting just “don’t know any better” because the schools haven’t taught them about the greatness of America.
“But whatever you might want to say about these players who are kneeling, who are protesting, I think I have a little inside information I’ll share with the president,” he said. “A lot of them don’t know any better. They just don’t know any better. They are alien to themselves and a culture and a country they do not understand.”
“Who has ever told them that America is the last, best hope of earth?” he asked. “Who has ever told them about the sacrifices at Gettysburg or Yorktown?”
Bennett, as usual, has it precisely backwards. Does he think the fact that we fought a civil war to end slavery means that there’s no more racism? Of course he does. He’s a clueless, privileged, rich white guy. But reality clearly says otherwise. And I would submit that he’s the one who doesn’t understand American history at all. The Declaration of Independence sets the standard but it’s one that we failed miserably to meet, and continue to fail to meet to this day.
Things have improved, of course, in ways great and small. But every single advancement in justice and equality in this nation’s history happened only because people engaged in protest, a right so profound that it’s in the First Amendment. Time and time again, from the fights over slavery to women’s suffrage to the civil rights battles of the 50s and 60s to the gay rights movement today, we have used the power of protest to right the wrongs.
Those who are protesting against racial injustice today are part of a long tradition that is the very best of American culture. It’s Bennett who doesn’t understand that.