Our children are constantly bombarded with different messages coming from the media – messages about what is cool, what is beautiful, what is sexy, how they should look, how they should act, who is popular, etc. If they happen to be 10 year old boys, they might love Dude Perfect, people who review video games, and people who give Top Ten lists on YouTube. This is all fine, but there is not much substance to any of it. None of these people are doing great things to make the world a better place.
It is our job as the adults to make sure that we point out and talk about the people who ARE making the world a better place. It is our job to talk about the role models that we would like our kids to emulate. Our kids determine what we believe is important by what we invest our time reading, watching and talking about. If we want our kids to care about social issues, and be engaged in making the world a better place, we need to put in some time to balance out the fluff that their brains will otherwise be filled with.
One such role model that I like to talk to my kids about is Colin Kaepernick. This is what I like to tell the kids about Colin ….
1. Colin chose an issue that was important to him.
There was an issue that he really cared about – police brutality toward black people. He felt this was unjust and unfair. And he decided he needed to do something about it.
2. Colin came up with an action he could take to make a difference.
He decided that with the platform he had as an NFL player, the best way that he could peacefully protest this injustice was to sit for the National Anthem. He did this for a few games.
3. Colin met with someone who had an opposing view – they had a civil discussion.
A veteran, Nate Boyer, reached out to tell Colin that he felt that sitting for the National Anthem was disrespectful and insulting to those who have fought and died for their country. So, Colin and Nate met to discuss this issue. They had opposing views, but they were able to have a civil conversation and come to a solution that they were both happy with.
4. Colin listened to the opposing view, heard the other person’s feelings on the issue, and modified the way he protested.
Nate suggested that Colin should kneel instead of sit. Colin agreed to this. He was still making his point, but he was doing so in a way that was less disrespectful to veterans. This is so important. This is what the world desperately needs right now – people to be able to discuss opposing views and come up with a compromise they can both live with.
5. Colin did all this knowing he could risk losing his job as a football player.
Colin decided to undertake this peaceful protest knowing full well that he could lose everything. This is what I really highlight when I explain the situation to the kids. This is especially easily relatable to my son who loves baseball and has dreams of making it to the MLB.
I explain that Colin loves football. He worked really hard his whole life to become a football player. He made it to the highest level he could in the sport. He had it all. He was one of the best players and he was lined up to have a long, successful career playing the sport he loves. He knew that protesting police brutality by taking a knee during the National Anthem was something that the coaches, team owners and higher ups probably were not going to support. He knew that there was a chance he could be punished for his peaceful protest by not being allowed to play football anymore, and he was willing to take that risk in order to stand up for what he believes in.
6. Colin will be remembered as a hero.
For the time being at least, it looks like he has lost everything as far as it relates to playing football. But he has started a movement. He has people talking about race and police brutality. He has other people kneeling for the National Anthem on other football teams, and in other sports. Some people are really angry at him for this, but I think he has been successful in furthering the conversation and hopefully inspiring change for the better. I believe that when people look back 50 years from now at this moment in history, Colin will be regarded as one of the heroes for moving civil rights and social justice forward.
This is what I tell the kids. Every chance I get. This is the type of story that I want them to be thinking about as they daydream or fall asleep at night.
Because it was Colin’s birthday recently, my social media feeds were filled with tributes to him. One of the photos I saw was of a little kid wearing a Kaepernick jersey and taking a knee. I asked my son if he would wear a Kaepernick shirt if I could find him one. He said he would. He said that his friends would see that and totally understand why he was wearing it. He said that if I bought him a Tom Brady shirt, his friends would think that was odd – because they know that I don’t like football. But me buying him a Colin Kaepernick shirt would totally make sense to them.
I thought that this was the best answer ever. I am so happy that I have this reputation among the 10 year old boys. I love that they know where I stand. That they know the types of issues I find important. That they know that I value kindness and compassion and standing up for those who have less of a voice than you do. This is proof that talking and talking to them about important issues really does work! They do listen and we, as the adults in their lives, do have the power to raise socially engaged leaders.
I read on one of the posts about Colin’s birthday that he would love other people to take a knee with him as a gift. I hope that is true and that he enjoys this photo that we took in our community.
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