By: Mitchell Lai ’18
As the national anthem rang across the stadium at San Jose City College on Friday, September 29th, several members of the Bellarmine Varsity Football Team took a knee to express their solidarity with the marginalized. Whether you agree or disagree with their actions, you must remember to listen to better understand your brothers.
We are a school that embraces diversity with open arms. For that reason, each member of our community brings different experiences and opinions to the table. As long as they embody our Jesuit mission and the spirit of Saint Ignatius, students acting to ignite social change should not be demonized.
Especially in light of recent events, I believe that race in the 21st century is a topic more prevalent than ever:
A white nationalism rally in Charlottesville.
A failure on behalf of our president to condemn such overt bigotry.
A categorization of all Mexicans as criminals and rapists.
A categorization of all Muslims as terrorists and threats to our nation.
A talk of building walls instead of breaking them down.
A series of incidents of police brutality toward people of color.
Regardless of political leanings – liberal or conservative, left or right – I hope that we can all agree that these expressions of hatred and intolerance have no place in our country and in our world.
When members of our football team took a knee on Friday, I believe that their intention was to not only act in the face of such injustice but to also prompt further discussions of race in the 21st century – their intention was not to snub America and all that this nation represents. In their open letter to the Bellarmine community, they wrote that they took a knee to “express our dissatisfaction with our society’s failure to uphold the values of justice, equality, and peace, and start constructive dialogue in our community.”
Though issues regarding race are tough to solve, and difficult conversations will inevitably arise, the seven principles of constructive dialogue are a good place to start. As Mr. Meyercord stated at the Mass of the Holy Spirit, “For some of us, dealing with race is a daily reality while others of us might need to make a concerted effort to be reflective and attentive to the challenges that race presents.” The principles of constructive dialogue are meant to facilitate these discussions and offer a guideline on how to make them both beneficial and worthwhile for all.
Most importantly, this act of protest should not drive a wedge between our community, whatever your stance on this issue. Rather, it should spur active conversations about race that bring people together. It is perfectly acceptable to disagree with an action, idea, or statement. However, we can only grow as individuals and as a community if we take this opportunity to listen and understand.
The Town Hall meeting was a perfect example of what can happen when a community comes together to engage in productive dialogue. As one person took the microphone, everyone in the theater took the opportunity to listen and understand the various perspectives on this issue – a place for clarification and a refuge from judgement.
As Father Greg Boyle wrote, “We have a chance, sometimes, to create a new jurisdiction, a place of astonishing mutuality, whenever we close both eyes of judgment and open the other eye to pay attention.” We should strive to create this very jurisdiction of inclusion at Bellarmine by providing unconditional love toward the people we are proud to call brothers.