Tuesday, September 26, 2017

To “Dis” or Not to “Dis” the Flag

The national flag of the United States of America is a symbol of freedom, liberty and human rights. It is a symbol of hope and all that we believe in as Americans. It is a symbol that some men rally behind, whether on our shores or in foreign territories. The stars on the flag represent the 50 states of the United States of America, and the stripes represent the 13 British colonies that declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and became the first states in the U.S.

The U.S. flag—The Stars and Stripes, Old Glory, and even The Star-Spangled Banner as it is nicknamed—is considered sacred by some; which will explain why the desecration of the flag is considered a public outrage, but remains protected as freedom of speech. Scholars have noted the irony that "the flag is so revered because it represents the land of the free, and that freedom includes the ability to use or abuse that flag in protest". Yet, there are those who say the flag holds no value for them at all and believe it’s nothing more than a symbol of a broken country.

For those who hold the flag in high esteem, it is about the beauty of living in America and enjoying the rights associated with our free democracy; those that has been paid for by blood, sweat, limbs, and even lives. It is because of this, that those who oppose issues in America and protest by burning the flag or kneeling during the National Anthem—the song associated with salute to the flag—are deemed unpatriotic or simply, “disrespectful”.

Over the last few years, this country has seen a public outcry over the increasing numbers of police brutality, especially in disproportionate numbers against African Americans. We’ve seen the likes of Travon Martin, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Mike Brown, and many more killed in controversial confrontations by law enforcement officers only to have all of them adjudicated with no convictions.

It was Sunday, August 14, 2016 when San Francisco’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick, an African American, sat during the playing of the National Anthem before a pre-season game. Initially, he went unnoticed because he wasn’t in uniform and did not play because of an injury. By August 26, he made national headlines for again, sitting during the playing of the National Anthem.

Kaepernick told the media after the game he sat because of the oppression of people of color and ongoing issues with police brutality.

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color," Kaepernick said, via NFL.com. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

When interviewed, Kaepernick said, “I'm going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me, this is something that has to change. When there's significant change and I feel that flag represents what it's supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way that it's supposed to, I'll stand."

Unlike what some in the media, NFL and President Donald Trump has proclaimed, for Kaepernick, his position to not stand during the playing of the National Anthem was not about failing to appreciate those who have suffered greatly in respect of the flag. In fact, he said, “I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. I have family…I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. That’s not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody. That’s something that’s not happening. I’ve seen videos, I’ve seen circumstances where men and women that have been in the military have come back and been treated unjustly by the country they fought have for, and have been murdered by the country they fought for, on our land. That’s not right.”

So, did Colin Kaepernick “Dis” the flag by not standing and by kneeling down? Many have decided to register their opposition to policies and laws that are unjust in this country by sitting, kneeling and taking a stand. Whenever those who were bold enough to show their opposition did so, they too have been called wrong, ungrateful and disrespectful.

Recently, President Trump said while campaigning in Alabama, “Wouldn’t you like to see one of our NFL owners, when somebody disrespects the flag, say, ‘Get that son-of-a-bitch off the field.’”

“Disrespects the flag…” What does it mean to “Dis” the flag? President Trump also said on his infamous Twitter account, “Burning a flag is a peaceful and respectful way for citizens of this great country to voice their displeasure. Very powerful.”
H’mmmm…Let’s get this straight: Kneeling down silently during the raising of the flag is disrespectful, but burning the flag is respectful? Again, I say, “To Dis or Not to Dis the Flag?” Maybe it is who is doing the “Dissing”.

Perhaps Tommie Smith (Gold) and John Carlos (Bronze) were being disrespectful in 1968 at the Mexico City Olympics when they raised their fists in salute to Black power during the playing of the U.S. National Anthem as they received their medals. Perhaps Rosie Parks in 1955 was being disrespectful when she had had enough and decided to sit in the “Whites Only” section of the bus while she paid the same fare as Whites but was told to sit in the back of the bus or go to jail. She chose the latter.

In 2017, if one decides to kneel down during the playing of the National Anthem they too are not only being “disrespectful” but “sons-of-bitches”. If history has taught us anything, it’s that today’s “sons-of-bitches” are tomorrow’s heroes.

In good ol’ Mr. Charlie type vernacular, Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys said regarding the recent stance by NFL members to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem: “You are all simply paid performers on a stage and that field is my stage! You will stand, with your hand over your heart and with respect, when our country’s National Anthem is being played or you will no longer be a Dallas Cowboy, a coach for the Dallas Cowboys, or have any association with the Dallas Cowboy organization! I will fire you, no matter who you are!”

Again, I say, “To Dis or to Not Dis the Flag”? The question has been, is taking a knee during the National Anthem being disrespectful? The real question is, what will taking-a-knee during the National Anthem cost those who will do it or what is the cost of silence? Does the beauty of the flag and the song cover up the injustices that started this entire stance in the first place?

R&B singer Erykah Badu says in lyric fashion, “Take a Knee”.
We are all watching to see
who will take a knee
We say if it were me
It would be so easy
But when you’ve suffered
Misery and have worked
To be what they call free
And are conditioned to
Believe what they say on TV
It’s hard to see the history
You are comfortably numb
To the indignity
Suffered by the collective WE
You watched mama struggle years
Social Media in your ears
And now the moment that you feared
All suited up you swallow tears
So though your legs are wobbly
You can’t go back to poverty…

We can ill afford to allow Colin Kaepernick’s original intent—that this country must do better in the disproportional injustice of police brutality against African Americans. We cannot allow those who would rather sweep the obvious under the rug and say this is disrespectful to the flag to call this protest disrespectful. No, kneeling stands for the very thing the flag represents to our country. We’re the ‘land of the free’ but every citizen hasn’t been made to feel truly free. Why does it still seem like there are different rules for drivers based on the color of one’s skin?

To Dis or Not to Dis the flag? We would be disrespecting the flag if we said nothing and did nothing about the racial injustices that African Americans face for still far too long in this country. We would be disrespecting the flag if the NFL players stopped their protests because of fear of their jobs. It cost Colin Kaepernick a job but we will look back on this time and say, it cost Colin but it paid dividends for others. We would be disrespecting the flag if you and I only allow the NFL players to partake in this stand. We must kneel with them in some form or the other. History would shame us if we allow them to stand alone. It would be a disrespect to them and to our forefathers who stood, walked, sat, drenched by water hoses and chased by dogs. Perhaps it is good to be disrespectful when being disrespectful is speaking up for those who cannot speak up for themselves. Don’t stop! Be “Disrespectful” in the dignity of right and justice. Shall we stand in shame or kneel in dignity? Again, I say, “To Dis or Not to Dis the Flag.” 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Dion Waiters skipped national anthem for religious reasons

On Wednesday, before the Cavaliers' game in Utah, those following Cleveland noticed Dion Waiters did not join the team during the pre-game presentation, including the singing of the national anthem. When asked by the Plain Dealer's Chris Haynes, Waiters attributed his absence to his religious beliefs:

Waiters informed Northeast Ohio Media Group that he is a Muslim and that he plans to excuse himself prior to the national anthem from here on out. "It's because of my religion," Waiters told NEOMG. "That's why I stayed in the locker room." Waiters says he is rededicating himself more to his Muslim faith. He appears to be in a happier state.

As Haynes explains, Waiters was absent not only for the anthem, but for lineup introductions -- a first because it was his first game of the season coming off the bench. In the Cavaliers' next game on Friday in Denver, Waiters remained out of the starting lineup, but did join his teammates for the anthem.

Waiters is not the first NBA player to forego standing for the anthem because of his Muslim faith. Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Raouf famously drew a one-game suspension from the NBA for his refusal to stand.

What do you think fair or foul?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Arizona Charter School Textbook Says Slavery Was Good for Blacks

Most historians agree that the enslavement of Africans for profit remains one the darkest religious periods of American history. So why is an Arizona charter school teaching students that slavery actually benefited blacks?

According to a lawsuit against the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools by the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, two books used by charters in Arizona, The 5,000 Year Leap and The Making of America by Cleon Skousen, teach Christian fiction and racist nonsense.

University of Baltimore legal scholar Garrett Epps told the Arizona Republic that The Making of America by Skousen are inaccurate.

“Parts of his major textbook, ‘The Making of America,’ present a systematically racist view of the Civil War. … A long description of slavery in the book claims that the state (of slavery) was beneficial to African Americans and that Southern racism was caused by the ‘intrusion’ of northern abolitionists and advocates of equality for the freed slaves,” Epps said.

The organization reached out to the charter school’s board to raise concerns about the school’s teaching of debunked and outdated information.

“Reading the text of The 5,000 Year Leap easily demonstrates that the book does not merely acknowledge the influence of religion in the nation’s founding, but actively promotes and endorses specific religious views and ideologies,” reads a letter from the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State to the charter school’s board, according to the Huffington Post. “For example, the fifth of twenty-eight principles taught by the book is that ‘All Things Were Created by God, Therefore upon Him All Mankind are Equally Dependent, and to Him They are Equally Responsible.’”

Here’s a bit of what your child will learn if they’re assigned to read The Making of America.

“If pickaninnies ran naked it was generally from choice, and when the white boys had to put on shoes and go away to school they were likely to envy the freedom of their colored playmates.”

Monday, July 21, 2014

Does the Bible Condone Premarital Sex?

by Bob Russell

Does the Bible Condone Premarital Sex?Occasionally church leaders email me, asking for my opinion on various personal or church problems. This spring, I received a note from a church leader in another city. The location isn't important, because the situation he outlined is common across the nation. He wrote of how a number of members ages 25 to 35 had reached the conclusion that premarital sex is “OK.” Some even play on the praise team, teach in the children’s program, or film videos for weekly announcements. “The problem is that some of them will tell me that they cannot find anything in scripture that says that what they are doing, having sex with someone, is wrong,” he said. “I have taught on the subject, but they do not see a direct statement against premarital sex.”

Dealing with sin.

He asked for other scriptures he can use, as well as about the church’s stance. Should it allow them to continue leading ministries or bring them before the congregation and—as the Bible says—have nothing to do with them in hopes it will help them see their sin and return to Christ? “I know that Satan wants to get in and cause problems in the church, but I also know the need to accept them and love them,” he concluded. “But we also have to deal with sin, or Satan wins.” In my response, I pointed out that the Bible repeatedly instructs God’s people to “flee fornication.” For 2,000 years, the word translated “fornication” in Scripture has been understood to include the prohibition of sex prior to marriage. Webster’s dictionary definition is clear: “consensual sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other.”

A privileged experience.

God designed the physical union of a man and a woman as a privileged experience within the bounds of marriage. The Lord intended marriage as a secure environment for raising children and a uniquely meaningful union that symbolizes God’s committed relationship to us (Ephesians 5:32). If there was nothing wrong with premarital sex, then why was Joseph determined to divorce Mary when he discovered she was expecting a child prior to marriage? If there is nothing wrong with premarital sex, then one could conclude there is nothing wrong with having children out of wedlock.

Obviously, those who would suggest the liberalization of the biblical standard are ignoring the clear teaching of Scripture, conforming to the values of the world, and yielding to the desires of the flesh. As Jesus said, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).

The church’s responsibility.

Just as I said to this letter writer, I say to all church leaders: The church has a responsibility to practice discipline in regard to flagrant, known sin.  This is especially true for those in leadership. We are to gently confront believers who are known to be living in sin and encourage them to repent. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus cautioned us not to attempt to remove a speck from someone else’s eye without first examining ourselves to make sure there is not a log protruding from our own. Later, He explained that if the person living in sin doesn’t repent, then the believer is to take two or three others to confront again. If the backslider still refuses to change, the issue is to be taken to the church (Matthew 19:16-17). The shepherds of the flock are then to confront in love and encourage restoration to Christ. If the offender still refuses to repent, he/she is to be treated as an unbeliever.

Removal option.

The Apostle Paul instructed the Corinthian church to remove from their fellowship a man who persisted in living in incest, warning, “With such a man do not even eat” (1 Corinthians 5:11). Now, I know such measures sound harsh in an era of super-tolerance, but I’ve seen them work very effectively—often in the first stages. God designed the church to consist of people who are “called out” from the world. We are to live separate and holy lives. Unless we practice some measure of church discipline, the church is in danger of simply reflecting its culture rather than transforming it.  In Matthew 5:13, Jesus said if salt loses its saltiness, it is good for nothing except to be cast out and trodden under men’s feet. This is the present-day danger all church leaders face. May we have courage to point others to the truth instead of settling for the path of least resistance. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Teen Sentenced to 23 Years for Killing Police Dog During Burglary

After NFL quarterback Michael Vick’s career was almost ruined for taking part in a dog fighting ring, some observers wondered whether society valued the life of dogs more than black men. This conversation is bound to be reignited now that a 17 year old black teen has been sentenced to 23 years behind bars for taking the life of a retired police dog during a burglary.

Ivins Rosier, 17, and two other teens broke into the home of a Florida trooper and gunned down his retired K-9. The dog passed away several days after the  burglary.
Rosier was convicted in May for the break-in and shoοting the five year old German Shepherd named Drake.

Although Rosier was only 16 when he broke into the home of trooper Robert Boody in 2012, Judge Robin Rosenberg said sentencing requirements left her little choice but to throw the book at the teen In addition, Rosier’s history with police didn’t help his case any.

During trial, Boody wept as he described coming home to find Drake lying in a pool of bloοd  critically wounded. Drake’s injuries were so severe that he eventually had to be euthanized.

Rosier admitted to Palm Beach County police that he was the one who shοt Drake. “If you shoot that dog and he dies, that’s murder of a law enforcement officer,” Detective Philip DiMola told Rosier during an interrogation, which was recorded and played during trial. 

Rosier’s attorney pressed for leniency but the judge pointed out the teen’s history of criminal activity and that he was even wearing an ankle monitor for a previous burglary during this incident. Rosier was tried as an adult for burglary and animal cruelty and sentenced to 23 years in prison.

Dr. Boyce Watkins, author of the book, “The 8 Principles of Black Male Empowerment,” says that this case is indicative of how society has never seen black men as being human. “Think of it this way.  You get a quarter century in prison for killing a dog, but the killers of Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin were not even convicted.  This very clearly and logically reminds us that the lives of black men are worth less than animals,” said Dr. Watkins. “You must link the psychology behind rulings like this to the fact that there are thousands of dead black boys all across the country who barely get a peep from the media, almost no serious police investigation and few repercussions for those responsible for the violence or the guns behind it.  If these boys were dead dogs, white people would be outraged.”

What are your thoughts? Post your comments below.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Floyd Mayweather Shuns Charitable Giving, Says He Makes Money For Himself

Late last year, radio personality Kelly Mac interviewed outspoken and undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather.  The boxer confessed that he has a “good heart,” but that he does not feel obligated to give to charities, specifically in Africa.

“[People] say ‘well, he got all this money, why is he not giving to Africa?’” starts Mayweather.  “Well, what has Africa given to us?  What has Africa came and gave to my children and to my family? Things work two ways.”

He then discussed the threat that he believes giving too much money to charity can cause.

“Everybody’s always talking about giving, giving, giving.  That’s the problem.  Everybody’s doing so much giving, at the end of the day, they may not have nothing.   Then they’ll say ‘why was he giving this to that person, and giving this to that person when he should have been saving?’”

Mayweather goes on to say that he should be able to do whatever he wants with his earnings, such as using it to provide for himself and his family.

“I never got involved in the sport of boxing to say ‘I’m going to fight and make hundreds of millions of dollars and just give it all away.’  If I’m gonna mess money off in a bad way, I’m going to spend it on myself.  I’m going to do what I want to do with my money.  You hear people talking about, ‘well, he should…donate to this or donate to that.’  No, I should donate to Floyd Mayweather, donate to Floyd Mayweather’s family.  Because that’s what it’s about.”

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Mayweather, 37, is worth $170 million. Mayweather also has a charity, The Floyd Mayweather Jr. Foundation, in which the foundation declares to help underprivileged youth in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Recently, Mayweather has been in the news for reportedly spending $50,000 for rapper Nicki Minaj to appear at his daughter’s birthday party.

Do you think Mayweather should be obligated to give to 

Africa and/or other charities?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Racism: Still Alive in 2014

On Tuesday, November 4, 2008 when newly elected President Barack Hussein Obama addressed his supporters at Grant Park in his hometown of Chicago, he boldly declared that a “change had come to America”. For many, the election of a man of Kenyan decent signaled that America had finally closed its dark chapter on racism and change had in fact not only come to America but to the rest of the world.

The mainstream media soon declared that America had reached the pinnacle of race relations and President Obama’s victory was proof the nation had entered a “new day”.

With recent comments by Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher battling the federal government’s efforts to restrict the land his cattle can graze on, and Los Angeles Clippers’ owner, Donald Sterling, it seems the change President Obama ushered in has worn out its welcome.

While talking to reporters covering his stand-off with the government, Mr. Bundy recalled driving by a public housing project in Las Vegas and seeing “at least half-dozen (black) people sitting on the porch, they didn't have nothing to do”. He added that they were “basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?...They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton…And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy?”

Perhaps Mr. Bundy has forgotten this country’s past and the savagery of slavery. His warped vision of Blacks “having a family life” during slavery was quite the contrary. One of the abhorrent tragedies of slavery was that it constantly tore families apart. Children were sold off and separated from their parents; spouses were broken up and sold to the highest bidder. In “Help Me Find My People”, author Heather Andrea Williams uses letters, public records, slave narratives and historical documents to “recreate the wrenching scenes of separation that happened on plantations and farms, in marketplace and on auction blocks”. Slavery ensured anything but “having a family life”.

The impact of slavery continues to have a lingering effect it on society despite having ended nearly 150 years ago. Slavery is also thought to be the biggest blight in the nation’s history.

While many conservatives who formerly viewed Mr. Bundy as a “patriot” have denounced his comments as “vile”, several continue to support him and argue his statement is an attack on the federal government versus one that disparages African Americans.

It is a mistake to believe that race is no longer an issue in America. NBA team owner Donald Sterling’s views on race is a testament to the fact there is a ways to go before we can announce that change has truly been achieve in terms of race relations.

In a recording, Mr. Sterling allegedly scolded his girlfriend, who happens to be of Black and Mexican heritage, for taking a photo with Los Angeles Lakers Hall of Fame Magic Johnson and posting it to a social media site.  During the conversation, he went on to say:

-- "It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people. Do you have to?"

-- "...Don't put him [Magic] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don't bring him to my games."

Mr. Sterling seems to have overlooked the fact that his team’s roster is comprised mostly of the same people he prefers to not have an association with. It is on the backs of these same players that he continues to make his fortune.

Mr. Bundy and Mr. Sterling are just the latest individuals to share their racist viewpoints with the nation. Politicians have long spewed underhanded, subtle—and not so subtle—jabs at President Obama.

From Brush Ash, a Republican National Committee member, accusing the President of “shucking and jiving” to GOP Representative Doug Lamborn’s “tar baby” comment to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer photographed pointing her finger in the President’s face, the attacks have been relentless.

There have been numerous reports that President Obama may be the most disrespected president in the history of the United States. Recently the Democrats admitted that this may in fact be attributed to his race versus his policies.

It is naïve for us as a nation to believe that race no longer plays a role in our daily lives. Racism has not gone away and we must continue to have an open dialogue about race if there is truly to be a “new day” in America.

Racism is wrong on every level—regardless of who is perpetrating the act. It goes against God’s teachings. Galations 3:28 states that there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

What do you think the church’s response should be to racist comments, attitudes and actions?