In nature, locking eyes is a sign of aggression--a sign of "I will stand and fight." To ignore that that is what Nick Sandmann (the Covington Catholic school student at the center of a controversy at the Lincoln Memorial last month) did is to ignore nature. To believe Sandmann was trying to diffuse the situation by standing straight and locking eyes with a man who is slowly walking, singing and drumming into a space that divided four black men yelling racial slurs at a group of young white students who have decided to yell back is beyond belief.
Sandmann stood his ground in defiance, not in peace. Nathan Phillips slowly approached him, singing and drumming. There was absolutely no aggression there. Aggression would have been swift and decisive.
Sandmann, on the other hand, was very decisive in his unwavering decision to stand and confront this man peacefully walking among the crowd. In his pride and arrogance, I will give him the benefit of the doubt that he believed he was standing for America, he was standing for, at the very least, his pride. He stood and locked eyes with Phillips.
In his statement, Sandmann did not even acknowledge Phillips by name until he addressed Phillips as a veteran--another slight that sticks out like a raised fist.
The question is, what was he proud of? But this is a moment when truth needs to be told. He was standing for injustice. He was standing for white power over black power. He was standing for white power over Native power.
In the heat of the moment, I can forgive this stance. But to issue a statement in which the conclusion is "I was standing for peace and trying to diffuse the situation" is wrong. Sandmann needs to apologize. I would also like to see Phillips acknowledge and apologize to Sandmann. Why an apology? For what? To acknowledge we are human. We are imperfect. Even though actions are taken with good intentions, with just intentions, they can still hurt another.
That is the human condition. Both were right. Both were wrong. And the Black Hebrew Israelites, well, hopefully they will also begin to see a bigger picture.....