At the Fork in the Road

Beliefs are powerful because people act on them. We buy many goods and services based on our beliefs. Advertisers know this. Salespeople and politicians know this. Published ads inform us of danger, of real or imagined fears, to sell us the hope of safety, security, and comfort.

But we are disadvantaged, and our ability to believe is abused when we are misinformed, especially when sources are trusted. We become more easily divided and manipulated. More than ever, we need the light of factual truth, so we might sift out, to discern the right path, and possibly go forward together in some form of agreement.

Even if your certitude was informed by an angel of light, observe the fork in the road in front of you. On the one hand, there is what you thought was true. If the other path is what is actually true, it is less familiar. But facts are facts, and truth is truth. At that fork in the road, you can’t go both ways; you must make a decision. So, when you get to that Proverbs 3:6 moment, think it through. It will take humility and courage to resist the tension in your soul to choose what is true and right, especially if it is unfamiliar to you and those you’ve walked with.

In 2016, Colin Kaepernick sat in protest during the national anthem after posting a video of Mr. Alton Sterling’s killing by a police officer. The post said, “This is what lynchings look like in 2016.”

Days later, after conferring with former NFL player and Green Beret, Nate Boyer, the protest tweaked into taking a knee. Why? Respect, as soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave and in a security halt. At this juncture, Mr. Kaepernick chose a path less traveled, a bold and costly move.

But 2016 was an election year. Kneeling in protest during the national anthem became grist for politicians who wanted power, and would lie to get it. Even after the election, the narrative was hijacked and falsely interpreted to mass audiences as an act of disrespect toward America, the military, and the US flag. Real outrage was generated with false information.

The NFL experienced political pressure and economic threat by a sitting US President and a misinformed, manipulated public. How would the NFL respond? They were at a fork in the road and faltered.

In 2020, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell finally stepped up to apologize to Mr. Kaepernick for how the NFL got it wrong, confessing they should have listened and spoken up. Even so, the line of victims of abusive and fatal encounters suffered by Black people at the hands of law enforcement got longer. From here, I can’t see the beginning or the end of that line.

In today’s news, another Black man was killed by police. America and the professing Church are at another fork in the road. It is familiar, but that tug on your heart says it is not right to keep going this way, doesn’t it? A place to start? Renounce the Jesus of white supremacy out loud and determine to find the Jesus of the Bible, for they are certainly not the same.

Consider how different and better it might have been for America, if in 2016, at this particular fork in the road, Mr. Goodell and the NFL team owners purposely and boldly left their luxury boxes to take the field to kneel with Mr. Kaepernick. Consider if other players and staff knelt, AND, instead of inviting people in each stadium to stand at the national anthem if all audiences were invited to kneel with us in mourning and peaceful protest at the anthem.

What if the NFL, NBA, and other sports, in stadium after stadium across America, in school assemblies and graduation ceremonies, if we publicly took a knee until our culture of injustice, including the disproportionate abuse and unnecessary killing of Black people at the hands of law enforcement, have nowhere to hide? 

We might not even know the names of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor, or so many, many others.

Frank Robinson

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