The following is an open letter to Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, who recently decided to remain seated for the national anthem before his games to protest problems in America with prejudice and hatred toward minorities.  

Dear Mr. Kaepernick,

I have always respected you for taking a stand as a Christian. And I also respect you for wanting to help us face the issue of bigotry, hatred, and mistreatment of the black community.

Certainly, I am not a qualified spokesman for the issue. However, I have always been aware of the problem, and have always tried to make a difference by taking specific actions that I have had control over. There is still much work to be done to eradicate prejudice.  

I love you. In fact, I wish I could sit down and chat. It would help me better understand where you are coming from.  

This letter is an attempt to help you understand why people are reacting the way they are. To many, what you are doing is not clear, not appropriate, and certainly not helpful.  

Why would you disrespect a whole nation now known for voting in an African American president for two terms? That doesn't make sense to many of us.

Why would you disrespect a flag for which both black and white blood has been shed in order to protect the freedom for which it stands? It appears as if you do not understand the values the flag and national anthem stand for.  

America, as a nation, is not holy or righteous, by any means. I too am shouting "foul" on actions and directions that we are taking. But the flag and the national anthem, saluted and sung by all Americans, are not the same as the confederate flag, unless someone like you leads a successful movement to change its meaning.

The principles they represent have fought for your rights, your freedoms, and on many fronts, have won your causes. The same flag that you will not stand up for overthrew a confederate flag in a war to determine if all men, were in fact, created equal.  That means that thousands of men gave their lives to declare that the American flag was yours as much as it is mine.  

Your desire to bring attention to a real issue is admirable. But may I submit that you have made what your profession refers to as, “a rookie mistake."  Instead of helping the problem become better understood, you have lowered it to further misunderstanding and rejection. You have thrown the long bomb into the wrong hands.  

May I make a suggestion while there is still time? If you want to lead us into change, I suggest the following:  

1) Humble yourself, admit your bad play, and shift your strategy to something more substantive.

2) Show us how you have overcome the problems of prejudice in your lifetime. Certainly, you are an example of one who has overcome.
3) Show us that you intend to make a difference in the lives of the people that matter. Work with smart people who have real answers and support their efforts. You have been given the blessing of success by a nation which afforded you the opportunity. Now use that power and resource to change the lives of those who both need it and will do something about it in a positive manner.  

4) Try love instead of hatred. Your anger is in the face of many who are trying to understand.  This has pushed them back into a more defensive stance. May I quote a scripture verse?  

Love never fails.

I will close by sharing with you a powerful story. I am a white pastor in a suburban community.  One day a man in our church invited a friend from work to a special event we were having.  He was African American.  I later discovered later was a well known man from our city.  I don't remember who all was in attendance that day. But certainly, he and his family were a minority, and possibly the only black faces present. He and I chatted for no more than a half-hour.

The next day or so he called me and said something to me that has changed our lives.  He said, "Pastor, I love you, and there ain't nothin' you can to about it." That was a good five years ago.  It is the motto that we now trumpet. We don't care about our political differences or our cultural differences. We respect one another and are committed to love one another to the end.  

I'm not saying that it is on the black community to initiate the love.  Without going into detail, for many years, I was already reaching across my cultural barriers and taking action that has challenged the thinking of my white suburbanites.

I'm all about taking a stand. But the key will always be unconditional love... from both communities.

Love is a powerful message. It never fails.  Give it a try. You might find an army of people who are sitting on the fence that would join you in the cause.

Let's change the world together!

Craig McLeod