I can remember, as a senior in high school, sitting on the edge of my seat in Buffalo Wild Wings while I awaited “The Decision” of LeBron James. Was he going to stay at Cleveland, go a team in the West Coast, or make me an extremely happy Miami Heat fan by joining up with his good buddy Dwyane Wade?
I leaped up and shouted with joy as he announced that he was taking his talents to Miami.
As the days went on, videos of angry Cleveland fans burning their LeBron jerseys went viral on the news and on social media. People in Miami were celebrating, and Cleveland fans were irate.
Since then, I can recall many more instances where people have been destroying jerseys and tearing apart the name of athletes, celebrities, and politicians alike. We have seen players move to other teams, celebrities share their opinions, and politicians say inappropriate/hurtful things while running for and in office.
I grew up in South Florida with a white dad and a hispanic mom. I remember growing up around a very diverse group of people in Homestead, where I learned from my parents how to love people for who they were and not for what they looked like or had to offer. When I went to Bible College, my friends and I decided to take a weekend trip to Dallas, TX to visit my roommate’s grandmother (I was the whitest person in the car). He was pulled over for going 10 over. This lead to him being questioned for 30 minutes and placed in the back of the police car. We had to provide our college IDs because the officer didn’t believe that the group we were with would be Bible College Students. He was convinced that we were going to go down there to get drunk and hit the strip clubs there.
I took my other roommate to a court case for a car wreck that he was in that damaged a part of a small bridge. I heard the judge make racially derogatory remarks after he left the room. That same night, we went to Walmart and a group of guys, in this small country town, commented that my friend had the appearance of an African slave. We were both extremely angry and frustrated as we left that town.
These men that I did life with, and still visit yearly, are some of the best people that I have ever met. They didn’t deserve that treatment. They didn’t push those people into calling them names or cause them to stereotype my friends.
Now we look into a time where it isn’t just a person’s jersey being burnt, but people are burning all of their things made by Nike. I have many friends that are from many kinds of walks of life. This comes with great advantages of getting to experience what it is like to live through their eyes. Because I have the privilege of being connected (as many of you are as well) it allows me understand victories, defeats, joys, sorrows, extravagance, the mundane, and oppositions much better. It gives me a person to hear and identify with instead of a post I read in my living room, that is fed to me by an algorithm.
I have spoken with veterans that are disgraced and disagree with Colin Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the anthem. I have also spoken to veterans who are completely fine with his display of protest. The most important thing about my conversations with these vets were not that I was able to voice my opinion to them, or even to take one of their sides. The biggest thing that I learned is that LISTENING to them helped me see how hurt and frustrated both sides were over the subject.
Do I claim to speak for all white people? No. Do I claim to speak for all minorities? No. Do I claim to speak for all veterans? No.
I claim to speak from my experiences and from the perspective gained through my relationship with people.
Disagreements happen and different ideologies are out there, but it doesn't give us permission to destroy things, throw temper tantrums, and curse others for their stance. We have lost sight of our ability to dialog with others long ago. As a country that has free speech as a right, we have migrated to bullying others into either "agreeing" with a side or slandering their name because of their view point. I encourage you to have coffee or share a meal with someone that doesn't always share your point of view and peacefully have a conversation with them... not to gain ammunition, but to see the world from their eyes and build a healthy passion for PEOPLE and not a PARTY, for COMMUNITY and not a COMPANY.
Although you may or may not be a Christian, I love what the Apostle Peter says in one of his letters to people that he loves. I hope that we can take some time to stop, think, and act out with reason. Instead of letting our emotions hang on our sleeves, we remember that not everyone has our worldview. You could grow up in a house next to someone who has lived life completely the opposite of how you did.
1 Peter 3:8-12
8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”