Do What You Can: One Woman’s Essay on Race and NFL National Anthem Protest

Browns sculpture
Sculpture at the Cleveland Browns’ stadium. Photo by Erik Drost. Used under Creative Commons license CC BY 2.0. Original at https://flic.kr/p/WNpLuF.

Happy Friday, everyone.

Local NPR is abuzz with people discussing this weekend’s planned bigot rallies in San Francisco (Saturday) and Berkeley (Sunday), and with counter-protesters’ plans.

In the spirit of thinking about using our agency in the ways that feel possible, here’s a brief essay by Erica Harris DeValve, who graduated college a couple months ago. Her husband, Seth, plays football for the Cleveland Browns. He made headlines this week for kneeling in a prayer circle with his African-American teammates during the national anthem. (Seth DeValve is white).

Harris DeValve’s essay for Very Smart Brothas is entitled, I’m Proud of My Husband for Kneeling During the Anthem, but Don’t Make Him a White Savior.” It’s a beautifully written essay whose title captures its main point. You should read it anyway for the clarity of her voice and her point, as well as to be reminded that this is the voice of an approximately 22-year-old woman and the actions of her 24-year-old husband. People of all ages, backgrounds, and experiences levels are working with their friends and acquaintances to embody their values.

Anyhow, here’s Harris DeValve, who says this and more better than I can.

I am grateful for the widespread support and praise that Seth is getting for his actions, but I would like to offer a humble reminder that a man—a black man—literally lost his job for taking a knee, week after week, on his own. Colin Kaepernick bravely took a step and began a movement throughout the NFL, and he suffered a ridiculous amount of hate and threats and ultimately lost his life’s work in the sport he loves.

We should not see Seth’s participation as legitimizing this movement. Rather, he chose to be an ally of his black teammates. To center the focus of Monday’s demonstration solely on Seth is to distract from what our real focus should be: listening to the experiences and the voices of the black people who are using their platforms to continue to bring the issue of racism in the U.S. to the forefront. Seth, as a white individual, never has and never will truly have to feel the weight and burden of racial discrimination and racial oppression. No white person does or will. But all white people should care and take a stand against its prevalence in this country.

What I hope to see from this is a shift in the conversation to Seth’s black teammates, who realistically have to carry that burden all the time. I am discouraged by this idea that acknowledging and fighting against racism is a distraction that must be stored away in order to be a good football player. I wholeheartedly reject that narrative.

Black players in the NFL cannot just turn their concern on and off in order to be able to focus more on football. White players shouldn’t, either. Racism is a day-to-day reality, and I hope that, instead of holding Seth up on a pedestal, the response will be to do what he did: listen to the voices of the black people in your life, and choose to support them as they seek to make their voices heard.”

Read the rest of Harris DeValve’s essay here.

You should really check out Very Smart Brothas whole site. Here’s a searing article from last week: How Trump Ruined My Relationship With My White Mother.

 

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