Yes, the NFL’s #TakeAKnee protests and reactions deserve discussion.
It’s one of many things that deserves attention.
Taking offense on behalf of a flag that is supposed to represent “liberty and justice for all” completely misses the point when the disproportionate loss of innocent black lives continues under said flag. That is not freedom or equality. That is perpetuating a system of nationalistic idolatry over and against cries for justice and equitable society.
That needs to change.
(Note: If you have trouble believing people of color generally have different lived experience than white people in this country, please pause your opinions to consider the data and listen to their stories.)
At the same time, let’s also remember suffering of:
- Rohingya Muslims fleeing from genocide
- Puerto Ricans and people in the U.S. Virgin Islands devastated by Hurricane Maria
- immigrant children who are in danger of losing DACA’s legal protection
- Flint, Michigan residents with health complications from unclean water
- refugees from countries in the new proposed travel ban
- our neighbors whose quiet struggles aren’t so obvious
So many people suffer pain, danger and injustice.
Who do we pay attention to? Do we only listen to the plight of certain people … who look like us? Who believe like us? Whose socioeconomic status is like ours?
Don’t buy into that zero-sum, scarcity mindset.
Social researcher Brené Brown writes in Rising Strong:[lborder]
When you practice empathy and compassion with someone, there is not less of theses qualities to go around. There’s more. Love is the last thing we need to ration in this world. The refugee in Syria doesn’t benefit more if you conserve your kindness only for her and withhold it from your neighbor who’s getting through a divorce. Yes, perspective is critical. But I’m a firm believer that complaining is OK as long as we piss and moan with a little perspective. Hurt is hurt, and every time we honor our own struggle and the struggles of others by responding with empathy and compassion, the healing that results affects all of us.[/lborder]
Our attention is not infinite. We can’t do everything, but we can start by doing something. We can focus on a few things while recognizing that many causes matter and committing ourselves to learning more about others with whom we share the world.
If you prescribe to a faith tradition, channel it to drive you to do something tangible. Prayer is a good starting point—but it is not enough in and of itself.
Faith without action is empty and meaningless.
If you want to see a better world, don’t just post on Facebook about it (I’m guilty here and have lots of room for improvement.). Let your concern for humanity translate into concrete efforts, volunteering or donating.[lborder]
Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity. – Pema Chödrön[/lborder]
There’s enough love to go around. Keep caring. Keep acting.
is a writer in Greenville, South Carolina, and is the author of The Variable Life: Finding Clarity and Confidence in a World of Choices, from which this article is adapted. Visit thevariablelife.com to find more.