By MISS LORI
This week at my daughter’s high school volleyball game, in a full panic, I made a hasty, highly ungraceful exit from the gym when I realized they were about to play the national anthem. WHY? Because in that moment I was launching full throttle into the intersection of parenting and my own political and social beliefs, and there was about to be a serious accident. I am personally in support of Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest concerning the treatment of Black lives in America. As such, I personally am taking a knee during the National Anthem at present, (respecting our armed services while also respecting the democratic rights they have fought so selflessly to protect for all of us). ME. Lori. Personally.
But that day, in that gym, I wasn’t just Lori the individual; I was my daughters’ mother. (I was also the only Black person in a room full of not-Black people at an away game supporting my child playing for her brand new school.) I was not “I.” I was “We,” Team Family. And in that moment I had to get the heck out of there before the SHE in our WE was faced with backlash that she wasn’t prepared to face, let alone be responsible for. There is no “I” in TEAM so I exited.
Even though in that moment I don’t believe I had a choice, I am deeply troubled and conflicted in the aftermath. You see, that won’t be the last time I have to do business at that “intersection,” and running from the room is not my idea of a good action plan. The problem is I’m not sure what, in fact, would be. This protest is relevant to me personally, but it is because I am a mother that it is even more important to me as an individual. I fear everyday for my Black children and the threats they face just because of the color of their skin. Peaceful protesting is for me a vital tool in educating offenders and inspiring universal change. I want to lead by example in order to encourage my kids in particular to stand up for themselves and others. But how do I do that without forcing them into my fire?
My daughter is brand new at the school. She’s brand new at the sport. She’s 15 and finding herself. She’s not invested in the news or social politics like I am or like her older brother is. Plus, as the low player on the totem poll, she’s got no juice. Let’s face it: “juice” helps. That’s why Colin Kaepernick doesn’t have to worry about professional retaliation, just social media evisceration. (Yeah, just that.) My son is the BMOC, (Big Man On Campus) at his school. He has juice…a few squeezes at least. He also leads with his convictions. (Wonder where he got that from.) However, his season doesn’t start for another two months so we’ll have to see where the protest is at come that time. If it’s still in full bloom, my son is going to do something. He’s already sent me a fresh blog post to edit detailing just that. (Yes, he has launched his own blog too. Proud Mommy!) My son has already made peace with his “intersection” as an individual, though he hopes that it will not conflict ultimately with his team, the community or risk his future.
The risk is real. In Alabama, Pastor Allen Joyner of Sweet Baptist Church in McKenzie made clear over a loudspeaker that such protests were not welcome at a high school football game:
“If you don’t want to stand for the national anthem, you can line up over there by the fence and let our military personnel take a few shots at you since they’re taking shots for you,” he said.
The announcement was met with cheers. But other athletes aren’t just facing threats; they are dealing with realized consequences for exercising their first amendment rights. They run the gamut from high school junior Mike Oppong getting suspended for a game, to Denver Bronco Brandon Marshall losing a corporate sponsorship. Oppong’s high school has since rescinded the punishment, conceding that Oppong had violated no school rules with his protest. But that change took days, and came only after his story went viral. What happens to the athletes who don’t have back up or viral story on their side? I don’t want my son to be the one to have to find out; however, he feels it’s a risk he must take.
I am hoping that should it come to it, my son’s team at his new school adopts the attitude the Beaumont Bulls did in Beaumont, Texas. That entire football team of 11 and 12 year olds, along with their coaches, took a knee at a recent game, completely unified. Unity is what this protest is all about. Unity and equality.
Some unification would help me a lot too. Having other parents who were pulling up short at the same intersection willing to take a knee would be awesome. But we are new. I’m still trying to learn people’s names let alone their political affiliations. I am hoping to identify some like minds sooner rather than later, but cultivating relationships with new fellow sports parents, especially before team hierarchy is really clear, is a very delicate process. I’m actively trying though.
In the meantime this Mommy is stuck at the “intersection,” with a child who is fully exposed in a world that is becoming increasingly violent and unforgiving. She’s the kid. I’m the mother. It’s my responsibility to wrestle with the traffic of life, liberty and the pursuit of social justice. I’m the mommy. (Ugh. I’m. The. Mommy.)
I believe leaving the room is my only available option at present, because any action I take right now, on my own, could seriously endanger my children. There may come a time when I have to overrule that concern for the greater good, but we aren’t there… yet. So instead, I will express my protest support at other venues and in other ways, while at my daughters’ games, I will perfect the art of the exit.
First directive? Wear quieter shoes.
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Miss Lori was the first National Host of PBS Kids, standing at the helm of The PBS Preschool Block for 3 years. She continues to champion children and their families through her own company, Miss Lori’s CAMPUS, producing award winning CDs, a DVD, a stage show and countless live events, including a 9 year tour partnership with WTTW PBS Kids and a brand new tour this year with Lakeshore Public Media. Miss Lori also shares her passionate advocacy through her blog on MissLori.TV (http://MissLori.TV/) celebrating individuals, organizations and brands that put families first. She is a single mother of three. Follow her on twitter @MissLori, Instagram @MissLoriTV and Facebook.