2017 or 1963?—Calif. Baptist University Students Throw Soda on Anthem Protesters

After Nearly 60 Years, Not Much Has Changed

The president of California Baptist University has condemned the actions of students filmed throwing a drink on men who chose to sit during the performance of the national anthem at a Lakers preseason game .

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Two California men, Matthew Brady and Jiahn Talebi, chose not to stand during the performance of the national anthem at a Lakers preseason game, with disastrous consequences.

“We’re joking around and talking. We don’t want to show respect for the national anthem. I sing out, ‘Home of the slave,’ because that’s what it should say,” Talebi told The Press-Enterprise in a phone interview.

Two female California Baptist University (CBU) students responded to Brady and Talebi’s refusal to stand by throwing a beverage at them, according to reports from CBU and corroborated by a Twitter video that went viral.

The original video, allegedly posted by one of the CBU students, was deleted shortly afterward, but not before it went viral on social media. It bore a loud and clear message with its caption: “Disrespect the flag and our country and that’s how we’ll react.”

CBU president Ronald Ellis released a public statement Oct. 9 denouncing the students’ actions, reading in part:

The despicable behavior displayed in the recording of the incident is an extreme departure from the positive Christian values that are central to the culture of California Baptist University and does not represent the vast majority of CBU students, employees and alumni. I cannot stress this too strongly… Reported violations, including this one, are vigorously investigated. Persons found in violation of the CBU Code of Conduct are subject to disciplinary consequences that may include expulsion from the university.

Additionally, he emphasized, “Hatred and hateful behavior are not welcome and will not be tolerated at California Baptist University.”

Misunderstanding the Message

As the nation remains vehemently divided over professional athletes silently protesting during the national anthem, opponents of these protests have continually misunderstood their message and intention.

Colin Kaepernick, former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, is credited as the originator of the national anthem protests. Kaepernick has made clear reference to the fact that his decision to kneel during the national anthem was not about disrespecting the U.S. flag, veterans or the country itself, but to encourage people to think more readily about the horrendous truth of police brutality and racial injustices in our country. In fact, he has made this abundantly clear on a number of occasions, and his supporters clearly understand this.

Yet, no matter how many times Kaepernick or any silent and peaceful protesters clarify, correct and respond, critics continue to erect straw-man arguments, impute motives and intentions and even create falsities about NFL regulations in order to bolster their arguments. President Trump, for example, has been one of the most vocal opponents of NFL players’ national anthem protests, but perhaps is one of the most ignorant of what these protests are even about.

The Myth of Progress

The despicable event that happened between the pair of Lakers fans and the CBU students is not only a clear example of uncharitable ignorance toward those who choose to protest during the anthem, but it is an ugly moment of déjà vu. As designer Alex Medina pointed out in his tweet the day the video went viral, the U.S. has seen this sort of violent and visceral response to protests against injustice in the past.

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Few can forget the image from the Jackson, Mississippi, sit-in of 1963 when John Salter, Joan Trumpauer and Anne Moody protested the segregated policies of the local Woolworth store by occupying seats at the “Whites only” counter, asking to be served and refusing to leave.

This was only one of the many sit-in demonstrations of the 1960s that were meant to be silent and peaceful protests against the injustice of segregation. The protesters of these sit-ins, not unlike the national anthem protests of our day, received heckles, insults and were even victims of dehumanizing violence. Not unlike the two Lakers fans last Wednesday, protesters during the 1960s were accustomed to having food and drinks thrown or poured on them as a clear message: “Disrespect…our country and that’s how we’ll react.”

Our nation enjoys perpetuating the magnificent coming-of-age story that racial inequities, racism and white supremacy all ended when the country grew up out of the Civil Rights era. Generations of children have been raised believing that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a prophet who was only needed for the primitive days of our country, and that we have reached (or have almost reached) the zenith of a Utopian post-racial society.

But it’s with instances like this—when two students of a self-professing Evangelical Christian educational institution are caught pouring drinks on participants of a protest against racial injustice—that we realize that while much has changed, not much has progressed.

In response to the Lakers preseason game incident, CBU students participated in a “Kneel on the Seal” demonstration on campus, in which they gathered together for prayer and support.

“This protest was about bringing awareness to the event and to racism in general, for praying for the girls and as a call to action,” organizer Krysta Hawkins told The Press-Enterprise. “I feel like right now because of this one incident, I feel like our school is being judged and being looked at in a negative light, but we want to redirect that into another light. We’re going to fight back with positivity in our faith.”

Photo by State Library and Archives of Florida

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