Editorial: What's the right way to protest?

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick started it all, by sitting during the national anthem at a preseason game to protest the killing of unarmed African-Americans by police.

Since then, many other athletes have taken Kaepernick's cue. Some have knelt during the anthem; others have locked arms.

Last Monday night, three Philadelphia Eagles: Malcolm Jenkins, Ron Brooks, & Steven Means, held their right fists upward.

The gesture reminded us of the image of U.S. sprinters: Tommie Smith, and John Carlos, atop the podium, during the 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympics —  with a gloved fist in the air.

Back then, America recoiled.

Smith and Carlos wanted to express solidarity with the fight against racial injustice, but their gesture was widely perceived as an affront to flag and country. The media demonized them.

There's a lot of that also going on now, in response to Kaepernick inspired protests. Most criticism has this feeling in common:

If you want to raise awareness about social injustice, disrespecting the American flag, or the national anthem, is not the way to do it.

But peaceful demonstration is not always a show of disrespect. In fact, it can be the opposite.

Protests happen in all forms & fashions. They can unify or polarize,  but protests that are earnest, are vital to our healing as a society, and are indeed patriotic. Call it the "patriotism of dissent."

Patriotism is better defined when it's defined broadly. It's speaking out for your country, it's defending your country, but it's also sounding an alarm when something's wrong.

True patriotism also demands holding fast to the stand you take, no matter how uncomfortable circumstances become, or how unpopular that stand can be.

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