Respecting different opinions creates strength in community

Taking a knee brings awareness

Malaika Bigirindavyi

Before the girls’ varsity soccer game against Southwest High School Sept. 25, three of my teammates and I decided to kneel for the national anthem in protest of police brutality and the oppression of black people. After the anthem ended, I felt a rush of joy. I could not wipe the smile off my face. The next day, when my whole team knelt with us, I welled up in tears knowing they supported us.

I believing ending discrimination against black people should be a priority in everyone’s life because it affects black people everyday, more than people would think. However, I need to be realistic and accept the fact that not everyone believes kneeling during the national anthem is the right way to protest.

After the game I had many thoughts running through my head. “What if some of the girls feel uncomfortable kneeling?” “What if they don’t have a valid reason for kneeling and are just doing it cause everyone else is?” Later that night I sent a message to the whole team explaining that if they felt uncomfortable kneeling or if it’s something they don’t support then they should stand. I told them our team is an open, loving space where we should be able to express our opinions and not worry about being judged. This is the perfect time for everyone to self evaluate what they support and what they believe is right or wrong. Stop acting on issues just because the majority or your friends are doing it. Take action rather because you have a reason or passion for doing so.

Many people believe kneeling for the national anthem is disrespectful towards the flag and the military. For me, it is not about the military. My relatives have fought for this country, and I am grateful they fought to protect my first amendment rights.

There is the argument that kneeling will not make an impact and it is dividing us more. However, kneeling during the national anthem in not dividing us, it shedding light to an already divided community. The girls’ soccer team’s actions have sparked conversation in our community. As high school students, it feels as if there isn’t much we can do right now to make a difference. But we have something powerful that we can use — our voices. Productive conversations and discussions help us understand where another person is coming from. When we attack and discount each other’s opinions, it gets us nowhere.

I am American. However, we live in a society with a system that protects white Americans and not black Americans. That is why I kneel.