People in powerful leadership positions must voice their opinions on racial issues



Players on the Oakland Raiders kneel during the national anthem, provoking outrage from some Americans. Their kneeling acts as a peaceful protest in the name of racial equality.

Jan Bloch, Regulars Multimedia Editor

The Holocaust has taught civilization that those who remain quiet can be as deadly as the people who commit genocide. Neighbors watched as their friends were dragged out of their homes and sent away to death camps. Out of fear, whites, Christians, and Germans stayed quiet. Surrounding countries stayed quiet. They remained silent, letting innocent families be murdered in order to avoid any type of conflict.

As Elie Wiesel famously said, “neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” We are faced with similar problems in 2017. Innocent people are being killed on the street for being a minority, and yet very few people in power choose to voice their opinions on the issue.

In the fall of 2016, Colin Kaepernick, a National Football League Quarterback, decided to take a knee during the national anthem before one of his games. Responses to his actions have varied drastically, yet a group of neutral observers have emerged as the controversy continued into the 2017 season. Neutrality robs protesters of the media attention, as well as the conversations they’re working for. It’s dire that everyone stands by what they believe, even if it means standing by the reputed oppressors.

America’s history is filled with regretful, racist actions that are ever present today. On Feb 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black boy, was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman. Martin, who was carrying a phone, earbuds and a pack of skittles, would be taken from his family for one simple reason: being a black male. Zimmerman would be acquitted.

This created a movement known as “Black Lives Matter,” led by people who seek change in a country that continues to oppress them. People took a stand; National Basketball Association players like Lebron James wore hoodies to their games, huge demonstrations took place across the country and the media covered it for months. Obama spoke out in a heartfelt speech saying, “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.” This was not taken lightly.

Yet, it seems hard to learn from mistakes when racism is so deeply rooted into us, because just two years later, Michael Brown, an unarmed 19-year-old boy, was fatally shot in Ferguson, Missouri. Once again, the officer involved in the killing of a young boy was not indicted. The lack of justice for the killings of Brown and Martin fueled Black Lives Matter. Both peaceful and violent protests occurred throughout the country, and once again, media attention arose. This didn’t change much. Police were still fatally shooting unarmed black men.

In order for change to happen, those sitting in big offices surrounded by money and privilege need to feel threatened, and that’s exactly what Colin Kaepernick managed to do. When Colin Kaepernick, an NFL quarterback who used to play for the San Francisco 49’ers and is now a free agent, decided to kneel during the national anthem, many different reactions were sparked. His reasoning:

“I’m not going to stand to show pride in a flag for a country that oppressed black people and people of color.” 

This was able to get the attention of those who normally don’t concern themselves with Black Lives Matter movements and shootings of young, black citizens.

It got the attention of NFL owners, the commissioner, coaches, players, fans and the President of The United States. All eyes were now on Kaepernick, and people were taking polar sides on the matter.

President Donald J. Trump called those who kneel during the anthem “sons of bitches.” Fans talked about “giving up on football entirely” thus causing a very strong response from NFL team owners on a political issue for the first time. These owners realized they need to step forward and try to maintain their viewers to avoid losing money.

Unfortunately, because the one goal in their mind was to maintain good business, they remained neutral on the topic. Goodell, the NFL commissioner, who previously publicly contested that Kaepernick has the right to protest has since shifted his views entirely. He now states that “the controversy over the anthem is a barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues.”

The Miami Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross and Dallas Cowboy’s owner Jerry Jones, who knelt with his players before the national anthem, have both gone back and forth as well in order to remain neutral in the eyes of the fans. By doing this, they believe they will be able to keep as many viewers as possible and thus lose a minimal amount of money.

However, not expressing their opinions is the worst thing they can do as American citizens. It would be better if these owners voiced their opinions as opposed to shying away from conflict.

When Trump called peaceful protesters “sons of bitches” on live T.V., or when the owner of the Texans, Bob McNair, said, “we can’t have the inmates running the prison,” it showed how racist the powerful men of this country still can be. Even if a voice is one of the oppressor, it has to be heard, because it still manages to identify the on-going issues this country has had hiding in plain sight.

Those who hate the protest need to make it known. By making it known they are allowing for debates and conversations to occur. Otherwise, change will never happen.

Kneeling during the national anthem has become a common occurrence in the NFL. Those who feel that there is wrong in the country have knelt and supported each other. Many people who disagree with kneeling have expressed their thoughts as well. Either way, both are voicing their thoughts.

With influential people like Goodell and Jones staying quiet, they are able to hide their opinions from the public. By doing this they avoid disapproval. Without disapproval there is no chance of leaving the comfort zone they have flourished in for so long. It’s time for those on a platform to let the country know how they approach this situation, which will lead to conversation, debate and progress.