- Editor’s note: This story offers a poignant example of how one American “family demonstrated that it is possible to take pride in our country while calling for a reckoning with injustice and inequality.”
- Insightful reading for all by Theodore R. Johnson, a contributing columnist for The Washington Post and retired naval officer, is a senior adviser for New America’s Us@250 initiative and author of “When the Stars Begin to Fall: Overcoming Racism and Renewing the Promise of America.”
A son kneels for the anthem. A father raises the flag. Both are patriots.
From The Washington Post Opinions:
One morning many years ago, my young son wondered why our car was idling in the middle of the road. “What’s wrong?” he asked from the back seat. We were on a military base, and everyone had stopped. I caught his eyes in the rearview mirror, just beyond the gold oak leaves on my uniform. “Nothing’s wrong,” I answered. “The national anthem is playing.” He looked out the window, furrowed his brow, and nodded once his ear caught the familiar melody.
Now a teenager, my son wore his own uniform of jersey and pads at a recent high school football game. While I stood at attention in the stadium bleachers, he knelt on the field as the anthem played.
As many athletes and others had done for years, he took a knee during the anthem to protest police brutality, especially against Black Americans. And as a dreadlocked Black teen coming into his own, his decision to kneel was as personal as it was political.
Adding aspiration to our pride and reckoning creates a framework for a better future. America will persist another 250 years only if “We, the people” is broadly conceived and if we are willing to work with one another to protect and continue the progress that is our birthright, though this is not inevitable.
At a Friday evening high school football stadium, my family demonstrated that it is possible to take pride in our country while calling for a reckoning with injustice and inequality. We were living out our vision of a country that permits honesty and aspiration to advance together.
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