Race is a difficult topic to discuss in our country. It always has been, and I do not see that changing any time soon.

I hesitated to place a toe into the swirling waters of the complex issue of race relations in the United States, but two things happened last weekend that prompted me to jump in with both feet.

I attended the Purdue Northwest Sinai Forum Sunday where speaker Jason Riley spoke about “Race and Understanding,” and I watched Sunday professional football where the controversy surrounding the taking of a knee during the playing of the national anthem by professional footballer Colin Kaepernick, some time ago, escalated into a heated national discussion following remarks last Friday by our president.

Jason Riley is an American journalist and member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board. He is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and frequently appears on the Journal Editorial Report, other Fox News programs and occasionally on C-SPAN.

He also is African American.

He discussed why many of the socioeconomic gains that blacks experienced in the first half of the 20th century wound up stalling or being reversed in the second half of the century because of the “politicizing” of the racial issues by the African American community itself and several other very provocative subjects.

That same day, the NFL released a statement while most team owners and players chose to show their support of currently unemployed quarterback Colin Kaepernick at various games. They took a knee, stood with arms linked or remained in the locker room during the playing of the national anthem.

Kaepernik’s original “protest” was to draw attention to the inequalities confronting black communities across our country and the policing practices that target those communities. While raising a flap initially, Kaepernick’s action had long since been pretty much ignored. It was the president’s comments that threw it back into the headlines.

My two activities on Sunday, attending the Forum and watching pro football, proved to be very provocative. Jason Riley voiced his opinion that the African American community itself is largely responsible for much of their plight today, and the world of football showed support of Colin Kaepernick’s taking a knee to spotlight that same plight. Theories, statements and actions by individuals practicing their constitutional right to free speech can be divisive.

But is the ensuing discussion not valuable?

I have yet to hear the "Star-Spangled Banner" without that oh-so familiar tinge of pride running up my spine — pride that we live in a nation where we are free to express our opinions, free to disagree and discuss.

I am an unabashed patriot, but that stops me not. It actually mandates that I allow the expression of other points of view.

In my opinion, United States citizens have the right to peacefully express their opinions on race or any other topic.

But there is an enormous difference between what we can or cannot do and what we should or should not do.

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Wendy J. Levenfeld is a published novelist, playwright and columnist from Chesterton. Send comments to wendylevenfeld@gmail.com. The opinions are the writer’s.