One Person's Insight

Mulford: Punishment for protest also disrespects the flag

Teresa Mulford is a retired State of Michigan privacy specialist, former Boy Scout Leader and a lifelong Lansing resident.  A member of USCL, Teresa’s article was published last month in the Lansing Journal.

To begin with, I respect and love you. Many of you understand deeply what I am about to say. Others have not been in the same position as I have been to consider my view of how prejudice and fear impacts us all as human beings.

While I am not black, and have enjoyed the advantages of being white, I have a different perspective. Let’s say I’ve had an inside track – as the white mother of an incredibly loving, respectful, smart, talented, funny and surprisingly well-adjusted mixed race child who is now grown.

Recently, with heavy heart, I read about what is happening at Lansing Catholic High School. Several black football players were warned that if they knelt in peaceful, respectful protest during the national anthem they would be penalized.

School administrators apparently feel that protesting during the National Anthem is disrespectful of the flag, the country and our military. This seems to be a popular refrain at this time in our history, starting from the top, with the U.S. President attacking protesting NFL players and suggesting they be called expletives.

However, all of these young men continue to express their love and respect for this country, the flag, and the military that fights to preserve our freedoms.

I am disappointed that a Christian institution believes that wagging white fingers at young black men and punishing them for exercising their constitutional rights is a just and righteous thing to do.

While they may argue First Amendment religious liberty rights or venue appropriateness, the thought of this heavy handedness feels so oppressive.

In other words, in my view, the school disrespected the flag and anthem, the very symbols that represent the right of free speech as well as the military that fights to preserve that right, by not allowing the students to exercise their rights. 

Many of my respected and beloved white brothers and sisters truly believe that “all that slavery stuff is in the past”.

As I previously mentioned, you sort of need to be more in the middle to get a fuller, unobstructed view. I need to point out to the recent author of a viewpoint (LSJ Opinion, Oct. 15) that when he proclaims that it wasn’t his experience that Lansing Catholic is insensitive to minorities, as a white man, he realistically can’t have that experience, so he might not be as well informed as he would like.

I have personally witnessed injustices against minorities, including my child, as well as having my life threatened for dearly loving someone of a different race.

From my perspective, the torches seem to glow ever brighter again as evidenced by continually oppressive, Jim Crow-like events and new laws: the Charleston Emmanuel AME church murders, changes in voting laws, gerrymandering, armed neo-Nazi and white supremacist rallies, the growth of hate groups in general and the list goes on.

These actions and events are not in our imagination – they are very real and have a profound impact on peoples’ lives, hearts and psyches.

Our cultures on both sides still carry the residue of over 300 years and many generations of slavery – as victims and victimizers. We continue to require healing.

Is there a realistic amount of time that it will take to neutralize the extent of this pain and devastation? Who is willing to truly stand in another’s shoes and feel the depth of their pain? Finally, how much honesty about our own fears are we willing to recognize? Be brave, kind, fair and take a stand – or take a knee.