Why I Kneel with Colin Kaepernick


  “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” said San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick when he explained why he refused to stand up for the national anthem before a game.

  “To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street, and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” With this gutsy action, Kaepernick has proven to be someone who is willing to put himself under fire in protest for equality and rights on behalf of minorities and Black Lives Matter, a movement dedicated to pointing out the constant, systematic inequality shown toward African-Americans in our country.

  But his naysayers are warping the narrative in their claim that protest of the national anthem is a direct affront to our armed forces, firefighters and medical responders. But Kaepernick’s protest is in no way denigrating our veterans or servicemen and women — they are even in support of his message, emphatically illustrated in the recent trend #VeteransforKaepernick on Twitter.

  This was no unlawful act of civil disobedience. This was no heretical “screw you” to America as a whole or its armed forces. This was a simple, peaceful but very powerful act of protest that is not only legal, as according to a statement issued by the NFL, but constitutional as outlined in the First Amendment of our Bill of Rights, which states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

   So feel free to use your “freedom of speech” to disagree with Kaepernick. Feel free to disagree with him because his view of how our country treats its citizens of color — very poorly, might I add — may not line up with yours, but you cannot call him ungrateful or uncivil — not even the plethora of colorful vocabulary you can find on Twitter — for his actions.

  If our beloved forefathers fought and died for the right to critique and hold their government accountable, what is so un-American about Kaepernick asking our country to do better? If you ask me, people like Trump who condemn Kaepernick, who would even go as far to tell him to “find a new country,” are sounding like the British who tried very hard — just look up the American Revolution for reference — to keep our forefathers from questioning their rule.

  This is an issue that goes beyond sitting during the national anthem to encompass any sort of protest involving American values or symbols, whether it be simply speaking out against or the burning of the flag in question. In the words of President Andrew Shepherd, played by Michael Douglas in “The American President” (1990), freedom of speech is the ability to “acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.” This does not mean that you have to agree, but if you really call America “the land of the free”, you must acknowledge their right to say it freely. Furthermore, you have to accept that in no way are they obligated to make sure their beliefs line up with yours. What America means to you, the value that its symbols hold, do not have to carry the same weight as someone else’s, and that’s okay.

  New York Times essayist and editorial writer Brent Staples tweeted, “Critical patriotism is more fundamentally American than blind, unquestioning allegiance.” file_000Please note the operating word here, critical, meaning we do not check our brains out and just go with whatever feels good when we feel patriotic. We enjoy it and take pride in it, but in the same vein are able to take a step back and make sure the ideals that we celebrate have the desired impact as well as intent. We do not let it cloud our judgement to the point where we immediately crucify a man for his actions versus taking the time to ask and analyze why he did it in the first place.

  In summary, America has issues. It has yet to come to terms with the bloody ledger we call American history, steeped in the blood of people of color. And when someone has the balls to put his millions-of-dollars career on the line and boldly call his country out on said issues, anyone with a real understanding of American patriotism and what it means to exercise our rights as American citizens should stand in solidarity with this man: the new Rosa Parks. You want to solve a problem; you want a solution? Get people to talk to about it first, and that is exactly what Kaepernick has accomplished.

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