The Colin Kaepernick protest reminds of a recent episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s new podcast series, Revisionist History. In an episode called Generous Orthodoxy, he examines what it means to protest. His first example was of a 98-year old Mennonite minister took on his church over gay marriage. The minister supported his gay son’s decision to marry and was subsequently excommunicated from his local church. For a man who had dedicated his entire life to that church and still believed in Jesus, it was a tough blow. His son had left the Church but at his father’s gently urging, he had eventually come back to Christianity, to Jesus, through a different road. The minister wrote a letter to his church which gained a lot of attention for its grace and humility. He didn’t lose his religion but nor did he stand down from loving and supporting his son.
The other example was from campus protests at Princeton where people battled about whether to remove references to Woodrow Wilson. Wilson was a former President of Princeton, former President of the United States and failed architect of the League of Nations. A significant man, by any measure. He was also an avowed and committed racist. (Srsly it’s pretty bad). Students at the university protested against naming the School of Public and International Affairs after Wilson. They claimed that his very mention was an affront to the ideals of the university; that references to him left them feeling unwanted. Others supported keeping Wilson’s name at the university and only emphasizing his great achievements. And still others tried to suggest a compromise – keep his reference and mention both his great achievements and his racism. Those who protested did so vociferously and with great stridency (screaming that the university owed them nothing! and that they were owed everything by the university!). There is real pain in their voices when you hear it. But ultimately, they lost and Wilson’s name has stayed prominent at Princeton.