Did Your Momma Teach You to Be Disrespectful?

My high school had a School Improvement Council whose members consisted of the principal, vice principal, teachers, parents, and one student representative.  I served on the Council as the student representative and my mother was one of the parent representatives.  I won’t go into great deal detail about our relationship, but will just say that the principal had a great disdain for me. I can only speculate about the origin of his dislike because he never verbalized his reasons, but he showed it in every encounter we had throughout my high school career.  Our weekly Council meeting was no different.  He discounted everything I said, would talk over me while I was offering input, and pretty much gave the impression that I added nothing of value. One of my mother’s sayings is that “even a dog deserves the time of day.” Well this dog was fed up and decided to retaliate.  I spoke my peace as if we were two adults having a rational conversation, but my mother quickly put me in my place. “You are my child and I did not raise you to be disrespectful!” Of course, the principal chimed in that I was being disrespectful. Then it was his turn to feel my mother’s wrath. She called him out about his behavior during the entire meeting and chastised him for his inability to separate the needs of the school from his personal feelings. They retired to his office for about an hour to continue the conversation. I don’t know what was said, but he was definitely more humble after the tongue lashing that I am sure he received.

Even though the principal was disrespectful to me, I had no right to be disrespectful to him.  I was putting into question all the values that my parents had worked so hard to instill in me. I was reflecting negatively on my entire family. I was portraying myself as a person I was not. Back then, I just wanted to tell the principal what I thought of him.  Today, I realize that my reputation is more important that a few misplaced words or actions. The “taking a knee” protest is one that I cannot endorse because of the lesson that I learned from that Council meeting over 25 years ago. I believe that it is totally disrespectful to every person who has bled and died for the freedoms that we now enjoy in this country to not stand when the Star Spangled Banner is played. Before you start throwing rocks and calling me out my name, hear me out.

I am just as unhappy with the state of life for African Americans in this country as all of my brothers and sisters, but disrespect is not the answer.  I cry every day because we do not have the freedoms for which our ancestors fought and died. I am saddened that our skin color speaks louder than our proven abilities. I am disgusted with the stereotypes with which we have been saddled because we were not born as Anglo-Americans. Equality does not reside in our communities, schools, churches, places of employment, or business opportunities. I acknowledge that this is where we are, but what are we going to do about it . . . “take a knee?”

What is the point of “taking a knee?” To protest? To bring awareness? To get media coverage? How does any of this bring about change? We complain about the injustices and inequalities, but we do not vote in every election. We are aggravated that there is not enough money to make the changes, but we are more concerned with spending our money on material possessions rather than contributing to the effort. We talk about failing schools, but do not take the time to help our children with their homework so that they can be prepared to get into the best colleges and rise to places of power. In America, money, power, or both are required to effect true change. Since we know that to be reality, we need to work to achieve wealth and influence.  The Democratic Party proved that it works during President Obama’s election and re-election . . . one dollar and one vote at a time. The thought of having a person of African American descent as the leader of the most influential nation in the free world was not even a pipe dream to most of us until it came into fruition. Now we know that all things are possible.

One of my mother’s other sayings is that “you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.” Does anyone actually think that acts such as “taking a knee” are going to unify efforts to bring about change? There are some veterans and survivors of veterans who support the protest.  But I would argue that a much greater number do not.  In fact, many people who were supporters of the movement have been alienated by this protest. We are being counterproductive in our efforts by attacking the values of those we are trying to encourage to join in the fight for equality. I have to be true to myself and “stand” against “taking a knee”.

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