Dear Mr. President & Mr. Kaepernick,
I believe that when you became president that you aspired to be one who unites people, and not a divider. You have recently reached out to Democrats on healthcare and now taxes. Is it possible that we can unite people behind the flag once again and not continue the rancor that has now become no more than a spectacle, which has lost any relevant meaning?
You are the leader of the free world, and regardless of whether we voted for you or not, you represent us all. As that leader, you can either stoke the flames of allegiance to the flag protest alone or redirect and encourage dialogue, which advances unity among all people. Colin Kaepernick was attempting to draw attention to what he saw as an injustice to Black people, especially Black youth across the country. Clearly, his heart was in the right place, although his choice of venue was ill-advised and hopes of immediate resolution a bit naïve.
Having said that, Kaepernick’s concerns about violence against Blacks should not be ignored. Even though the narrative surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown was proved to be false, and even though Black Lives Matter is more about the Black LGBTQ community gaining political power, there are still legitimate claims of bad behavior stemming from our police departments. (I say this as a former police officer who has great respect for those who “protect and serve”).
At the same time, there are those political leaders who hide such wrongdoings to get reelected. Case in point, as a resident of the Chicago suburbs and a pastor in the city of Chicago we witnessed the illegal shooting of Laquan McDonald gunned down by a rogue police officer. This took place a few months after the riots in Ferguson. Mayor Rahm Emanuel decided to cover up the incident so it would not affect his re-election bid at the time. This is a travesty of justice, not to mention all the Black youth shot in the streets of Chicago due to gang violence, or the number of unborn Black babies who are killed through abortion.
I think it’s time for us to stand for those ideas that the flag truly represents, and then collectively sit down and discuss how together we stop the carnage in our cities like Chicago. Kneeling at the NFL games accomplishes nothing and becomes a major distraction to finding viable solutions. You might win the argument, but what have any of us gained if the outcome is that we lose a generation of young people who really need a leader who is not just trying to score points with his base.
Also, Mr. Kaepernick your website (www.Kaepernick7.com) asserts that your mission is “to fight oppression of all kinds globally, through education and social activism.” Unfortunately, you may want to amend that mission. Some things need to be oppressed such as gang violence, police brutality, overt racism, or crime in general. Some of the very things you openly protest. More importantly, I believe you are referring to the “oppression” of the less fortunate, especially those who can’t defend themselves. Those who Jesus mentioned in Luke 4:18-19 when He quoted Isaiah 61:1-2,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (ESV)
Jesus mentions that he has come to “proclaim the good news to the poor” and to “set at liberty the captives and the oppressed.” This ministry of release and restoration is at the heart of Jesus’ work of redemption and is one that must continuously be carried out by His disciples to all people, regardless of ethnicity, race or social status.
To you Mr. President, my suggestion is that you start with inviting Mr. Kaepernick to the White House to discuss his concern about the Black community, which you have alluded to in your statements. Have lunch and even invite others who hold many of these same concerns. And, let’s begin to talk about viable ways to address these issues, which have systemically plagued lower-income communities, both Black and White. Find a point where you can agree, and then the energy that has torn our nation asunder will be less about us vs. them, and more about how we fix the problems. This approach would turn adversaries into allies working toward the same goal, and consequently, begin to unite our country in the process. So, when we all stand and salute our flag, we know by our example what exactly we say we are standing for.
Mr. President, what do you have to lose?!? I say nothing. Unifying the country behind something we can all be proud of—including a legacy, which ultimately alleviates oppression and untimely deaths.
Sincerely and humbly submitted,
Rev. Dr. Eric M. Wallace,
Pastor of Hope Christian Fellowship
President of Freedom’s Journal Institute