On Monday, HuffPost’s Jesse Benn wrote an article entitled, “White Athletes Still Standing For The Anthem Are Standing For White Supremacy.” Ironically, he published the article with a picture of the Cleveland Browns, showing some kneeling and others standing. In the center of the picture, a black athlete stood for the anthem. According to Benn’s reasoning, he too must have stood for “white supremacy.”
“See, for white athletes the anthem and American flag do represent freedom, liberty and whatever other amorphous American values one might ascribe to these symbols,” Benn noted. (What a patriotic sentence!) “So, from their view, kneeling would be disrespectful to the privileges a white supremacist nation affords them.”
The enlightened HuffPost writer summarized the argument against kneeling this way: “Kneeling during the anthem disrespects the flag and the soldiers who fought for your right to protest and blah blah blah patriotism!” Yeah, Benn. Teach those ignorant rubes!
Naturally, the writer dismissed national pride in America as racist — the expression of white privilege. “If white athletes can’t fathom kneeling because they feel soldiers fought for their rights and blah blah blah patriotism, it’s because they are treated as full citizens and afforded those rights they imagine soldiers fought for,” Benn wrote. “Interpreting their own experience as something more universal, they struggle to understand why anyone should kneel.”
“This is the problem of privilege,” the HuffPost writer lectured. “It skews our ability to grasp what the world looks like outside our view.” He trumpeted the argument of Colin Kaepernick — “the promises that underlie those values remain unfulfilled for black Americans.”
Benn argued that this perspective “isn’t a matter of opinion.” He cited statistics revealing disparities along racial lines in “wealth, education, healthy food, employment, health care, housing, wages, criminal charges/sentences and practically every other imaginable measure of quality of life.”
“This isn’t a mistake of history or attributable to individual or cultural traits of the oppressed. These are the results of centuries of systemic white supremacy, plain and simple,” he concluded.
If so, why does Benn limit his attack to “white athletes still standing for the anthem”? His very image featured Emmanuel Ogbah, Cleveland Browns #90, who did not kneel with other members of the team. Indeed, many black players did not kneel. Are they, too, secretly white supremacist?
Proud of the Browns players for making a statement of unity during the anthem pic.twitter.com/DiuHSR2mRA
— Damon J. Kecman (@DownWithDamon) September 24, 2017
Many have made this argument, most notably “comedian” Chelsea Handler, who singled out David Clarke, Ben Carson, and Stacey Dash as “black white supremacists.” Then there’s Carol Swain, a black former Princeton professor whom the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) called an “apologist” for a “white supremacist.”
There is yet another wrinkle in the arguments of Kaepernick and Benn. Is it “blah blah blah patriotism” to acknowledge that some of the most important soldiers in the Civil War were black? That black soldiers on the side of the Union demonstrated their qualifications for citizenship by serving nobly alongside other soldiers to defeat the Confederacy?
Black people may suffer with injustices today — the criminal justice system in particular needs reform — but it would be ludicrous not to acknowledge the steps forward. Furthermore, there are millions of people across the world who are in slavery today. There are millions more who live utterly impoverished lives compared to those of the poorest American today.
Finally, these black athletes represent a tiny elite in American society. They have glory and wealth even most Americans can barely fathom. Are they not a living proof that America is not as “white supremacist” as they themselves claim?
Indeed, in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, a black man who points to white supremacy at the very center of America could not stand the fact that he himself had become something of a celebrity. His moving and impassioned writing has made him one of the Left’s heroes. Only in America could a man gain fame by attacking his own country as irredeemably evil.
There is a sort of tragic irony in the fact that wealthy, admired football players are leading this charge to acknowledge the alleged racism that keeps them oppressed. Yes, they say it is in solidarity with the poor and disadvantaged, but is not their very success a living indictment against the idea that they suffer under “white supremacy”?
By all means, Americans should strive to make this country as fair as possible and to root out racism wherever it remains. But America does not stand for racism — it stands for the equal rights at the center of the American dream. That dream is emphatically for all Americans, regardless of race and regardless of the anti-Americanism of bloggers like Benn.
Emmanuel Ogbah was not secretly a white supremacist because he did not kneel this weekend, and neither were any of the white players who chose to honor the American flag and the National Anthem. The United States is an imperfect country, but its hope and its promise is “liberty and justice for all.”