Our View: Sit or stand, this is about respect

Our View: Sit or stand, this is about respect

CW Editorial Board

Well UA, it’s been a week.

Since Saturday’s #bamasits protest, social media has been rife with debate regarding the U.S. national anthem. Bryant-Denny is far from the first stadium to see a Kaepernick-inspired protest in its student section, and it won’t be the last – but the situation that has resulted has far surpassed any seen at other universities.

On Wednesday morning, a student issued threats against the life of a fellow student, not only attacking his ideology, but the color of his skin. While the student in question has since been removed from campus and suspended indefinitely, he has left a mark on our student body that will take a long time to remove – simply because we all hold different interpretations of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The national anthem has historically been a symbol of unity and peace, but over the past few weeks has become a cause of division both nationally and locally. Americans are primarily divided into two camps: one that sees the anthem as paramount to patriotic duty, and another that sees it as a representation of the growing social divide between races.

Let’s be clear – both are valid opinions. Just like in English class, there is no one way to interpret song lyrics, not even the national anthem. Both #bamasits supporters and supporters of its new counterpart, Bama Stands, are entitled to sit or stand, and to glean what they will from the exercise thereof.

This is the fundamental basis of the First Amendment, which protects citizens’ rights to free speech. It doesn’t just protect #bamasits, and it doesn’t just protect Bama Stands. The amazing thing about freedom of speech in the United States is that it is offered to everyone, creating an incomparable marketplace of ideas that few countries can boast.

The Editorial Board believes that it is the right and privilege of every American to speak freely, and by extension, to peacefully protest for whatever message they so choose. It is when voices on either side devolve into hatred and oppression that the founding principles of our country and unity are lost.

Hate is not the answer, nor has it ever been. It only leads to further divide us. Yes, there will be times when we disagree with each other’s actions and choices, but it is in those times that our character and integrity are tested.

This week, UA has been tested. And UA has failed. Our Alabama Student Ticket Exchange Facebook page, the place where we go to buy tickets for games when we can’t wake up on time to get a ticket package, has disintegrated into a battleground. Students have hurled insults and accusations at one another in comment sections without consequence.

That is, until there were consequences. It took a threat on someone’s life for the University to address the situation.

Truthfully, this incident was not the first nor will it be the last time that threats of violence have been used to quell freedom of speech. Incidents like these that happen every day often go unnoticed but still seem to occur. Participants of the Black Lives Matter movement face a dangerous digital landscape when they attempt to voice their dissatisfaction with the world around them.

It can be difficult to adjust to new perspectives; when faced with new points of view, some react explosively and insensitively because they don’t know how to accommodate a set of ideas that differs so heavily from their own. But this extends beyond gathering new perspectives. This is about deeply-ingrained, institutionalized racism that has now pervaded even the simplest of American exercises – peaceful protest.

We’re never going to agree on everything. But the least we can do is understand and respect one another.

Come on, UA. We can do better than this.

Our View is the consensus of The Crimson White Editorial Board. Editor-in-Chief Peyton Shepard recused herself due to prior involvement in the reporting of this story.