Colin Kaepernick’s protest of unfair police brutality on people of color was silenced by the commonly used tactic of bringing “patriotism” into question.
My strongest statement when asked how I feel about Kaepernick kneeling for the American national anthem is the same as it is when I am asked about the racist ideology of the Ku Klux Klan: As a 24-year veteran, my life was on the line 24/7 for him to have the right to protest something he believes is systemically unjust…just as it is for a racist group to be protected by police officers during their free protests or demonstrations that are meant to promote hate and intolerance.
What makes one situation any more offensive than the other is the question I believe should be asked in the case of Colin Kaepernick. The flag shouldn’t be viewed as a symbol that overrides our country’s responsibility to be true to the promises of liberty and justice for all, which is actually a part of the pledge of allegiance. Contrarily, it should remind us that our Republic (“for which it stands”) MUST STAND JUST AS FIRMLY upon it’s promise to it’s citizens as its citizens does to it! Kaepernick wasn’t in the business of hurting anyone with his protest, he simply recognized the symbolism of what he was pledging and helped us all to see the same injustices. So, a question from many people of color is “Why would there be so much anger toward him for using his celebrity platform as a means of bringing much-needed attention to an obviously systemic issue that needed to be addressed?” In my opinion, it’s the same senseless logic that a “blue lives matter” platform was justified to counter the “Black Lives Matter” movement: a diversion from the real issue of racial injustice that no one wants to discuss…but in today’s climate, it is a necessary and exhausting set of “uppercuts to moving mosquitoes” in terms of progress.
So many questions may be asked to challenge one’s perspective on whether the pledge to the flag should even be a traditional standard. Maybe just pledge to “The Republic for which it stands” is the actual pledge…ever considered that? What would you think if you saw a retired veteran not placing his hand over his/her heart during the national anthem? Would you automatically assume they aren’t patriotic? Doesn’t the national anthem pledge allegiance to the “flag”? Then why are there many people who claim to be patriots out there waving flags of the confederacy? As I understand, you may only pledge allegiance to ONE! Are they hypocrites, or are they really pledging their allegiance to something else, but pretending to be pledging it to the flag? Why DO people place their hands over their hearts for the national anthem? Is it a lawful gesture for which one may be prosecuted for non-adherence? Or, is it a gesture used to identify those who are not patriotic? Whichever, every member of the military serves to protect the constitutional rights of Americans, which include the rights to express themselves freely and without regard to others’ criticism.
That identifies my belief of what Mr. Kaepernick has done. In my opinion, he is more patriotic than most because he is holding his country accountable to the words written in our Constitution (which is each American’s lawful contract with our government) and spoken from the mouths of our elected officials with raised right hands and left hands rested on the Holy Bible. There is no law that requires any American citizen to stand for the national anthem, just as there is no law that requires us to stand for prayer, nor the removal of our headgear during either. These gestures are “tradition”…which is another topic for a rainy day. There are, however, rules against the infringement upon other’s (Mr. Kaepernick’s) Constitutional rights, earned simply because they are American citizens.
Parental guidance is suggested…
If every other minority NFL player decided to take a knee during the national anthem, what could be done about it? Nothing! This entire headline would be unnecessary if minority players had stuck together, and there likely would have been a Public Service Message plastered across every billboard in America about the need to address police brutality on minorities. But, because they didn’t collectively take a stand, Mr. Kaepernick is left to stand for himself. Were they afraid or were they enslaved by fear? My opinion of the NFL has gone from one recognizing its membership as a band of brothers, to something much less respectable. I mean, Mr. Kaepernick’s protest was warranted based on factual information, not some personal perspective. So, from where do I believe the underlying issues stem? One more paragraph…I know this is a long blog post but I want to try and link issues best I can.
I’ve seen parents push their kids athleticism as a “way out of the stuggle” for a very long time. I’ve known people who work extra jobs to pay for football summer camp, but wouldn’t pay for tutoring so their children could do better in math and science. I see children at risk of being hit by cars in very busy intersections to solicit donations for football uniforms and money to help their teams go on team trips. Many of these same kids’ speech is so deficient that they should be in grammar classes, not football uniforms! Parental priorities become kid priorities, so when kids are taught that football is more important than education they lose sight of everything else except football. Many of our NFL players fit that category. We have some who are and were brilliant scholar athletes, but they aren’t the majority by far…and they may not be very “aware” either. That isn’t the case with Kaepernick. He is intelligent, good at football, and educated. As minorities, we shouldn’t forget the teachings and examples of Douglass, Garvey, King, Malcolm X, Marshall, Obama, Winfrey, etc. EDUCATION is our saving grace on this earth, NOT FOOTBALL! Teach our kids while they are young that THINGS and POPULARITY should not be their goal…KNOWLEDGE should be. Kaepernick will be okay…he may have to live a more modest lifestyle without football, but I don’t believe he is broke…and with a degree in Management, I am certain he at least learned how not to be. As for many of the others who didn’t put their education first, well, let’s just say they are “indentured servants” of the “NFL and the system.”
Lastly, a unified America should be focused on figuring out what the real issues are and standing up for what is right. We can’t do that if people keep lying and pretending the issues aren’t real issues. Sometimes it takes recognizing and understanding the source of discomfort to find a level of comfort. We will, as a country, figure it out and move on to our greatness!