Kneelers of conscience
MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN | 10/8/2017, 9:51 p.m.
Every single movement for equality and justice in America, from the Revolution through fights for an end to slavery, women’s rights, gay and lesbian rights and more has faced loud, dangerous and often violent opposition. There always have been people in power who condemn as un-American any and all forms of protest and any challenge to the nation’s economic, racial, gender and other forms of discrimination, however unjust. I urge all of us to engage in what Congressman Lewis calls “good and necessary trouble.”
In a New York Times op-ed – Why Colin Kaepernick and I Decided to Take a Knee – Eric Reid said, “It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel. We chose (the respectful gesture of kneeling) because it’s exactly the opposite. It has always been my understanding that the brave men and women who fought and died for our country did so to ensure that we could live in a fair and free society, which includes the right to speak out in protest. It should go without saying that I love my country and I’m proud to be an American. But, to quote James Baldwin, ‘exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.’”
King would cheer. He said, “I criticize America because I love her, and because I want to see her stand as the moral example of the world.” I hope all our children will be willing to live their conscience unbridled by political or cultural criticism. Kudos to athletes and others willing to risk careers and endure the ire of haters and shameful role models, including the President of the United States, who stand with White supremacists. All attempts to denigrate, distract and divide us by anyone in high and low places must not and will not prevail. We are better than this in America. True patriots and people of all major faiths must never cease to honor the creed and struggle to close the gaps between creed and deed.
Marian Wright Edelman is the president of the Children’s Defense Fund. For more information, go to http://www.childrensdefense.org.