San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat down during the playing of the National Anthem -- his refusal "to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," particularly in the form of police brutality.
My reaction was very negative. To me, he was turning his back not just on us, but on a proud heritage that many Americans had sacrificed their lives to build and maintain.
I expected him to be censured by the NFL. But I was surprised when he was supported by his teammates and the league remained silent. Then I realized the majority of NFL players are people of color.
So I stepped back, and tried to see it through their eyes.
Racial bias runs deep in America. I grew up in a publicly segregated suburb of Washington DC until 1942. Then my stepfather left the Roosevelt government and moved north to take a position that made him part of the war effort.
I was then stunned to find blacks in my school -- the first realization of my own bias. Since I was taught that bias is a character weakness, I sought to make friends with blacks as a means to deal with it.
So I got a different picture seeing this act through the eyes of those supporting Colin's protest. This is a free country, so you can't make people treat blacks equally, even though not doing so violates America's founding principle of equality.
But the police represent America's system of justice. So a biased police officer is clearly unacceptable, and a rigorous effort must be made that, while biases may exist in our people, they do not penetrate our justice system, particularly our police force that deals with citizens on a day-to-day basis.
There have been a number of troubling police incidents involving people of color that have angered Black Americans, as well as those of us who are concerned about equal justice. I know how I would feel as a parent if I felt compelled to carefully explain to my children how they needed to act around policemen, while parents of another race had no need to do so with their children.
We have 800,000 policemen who are given both authority and weapons that can kill. While the vast majority can be trusted to carry out their duties fairly, we apparently have no effective screening process to eliminate biased individuals who misuse this power. This corruption is causing a national problem of mistrust.
So we need to make a dramatic national effort to try to address this situation, which would help inspire the confidence of Americans.
Here is one idea:
To date, the primary concern of police training is dealing with criminals and keeping the peace. I suspect evidence of prejudice of members is rarely dealt with.
There are simple psychological tests available that would reveal biases and indicate if further training or termination is needed. If we could expect unbiased police chiefs across our nation, we would clean up a lot of biases in our police stations pretty quickly. Then the test could be utilized for incoming recruits.
Perhaps such a plan is not feasible. Still we must recognize this black justice problem is very deep; it will divide us if it is not seriously addressed. It goes to the core of what America stands for.