I have never heard of this football player, Colin Kaepernick, but I have heard the recent story of his actions and comments. Based on the several articles I have read on the subject and my long-standing opinion on the matter, I agree with him.
He has been quoted as saying:
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. 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.”
Again, I have never heard of this man before, but he has a point. It is hard to be proud of your country when it so regularly ignores and excuses injustice.
His comment was an explanation of why he didn’t stand for the National Anthem before a football game, which many so-called patriots had a problem with.
The National Anthem was established by act of Congress in 1931 but was written more than 100 years earlier around the end of the War of 1812. Its author is Francis Scott Key, who wrote it as a poem, called “Defense of Fort McHenry,” and who was an infamous anti-abolitionist.
For many reasons, including religious ones, I personally have refused to stand for the National Anthem (or to recite the pledge of allegiance) since I was in junior high school. I also don’t feel love for the American flag.
And I’m not required to.
I’m a citizen of the US. All citizens have the right not to stand for the National Anthem. They also have the right to fair trials, to protection against illegal searches and to vote in elections.
Unfortunately, some citizens are routinely deprived of those rights. An inordinate amount of those citizens are black. There are statistics that show this, but I won’t put them here because they are easy enough to find on the internet from reputable sources.
You might believe that these inequalities are a recent phenomenon or that they are coincidence.
But if you look at the history of the US, the inequalities are not random.
They are by design.
Like so many countries, including past and present enemies of the US, it was created by and for a certain group of people. These people are usually rich and play the “divide and conquer” game. In the US, the game is played by pitting blacks against whites. The genius of how the game has evolved is that both blacks and whites are occasionally able to rise up through the ranks and become one of the “dividers.”
But I digress.
Mr. Kaepernick is well within his rights to protest the National Anthem, even if it didn’t contain racist text, which it clearly does. This is nothing new. There has been quite a lot debate about whether the US Constitution also contains racist text.
Anyone who claims to love the United States should also protest the song. There are too many forces in the US that perpetuate injustice rather than fight it. These include individuals, institutions and governmental bodies. These forces need to be stopped and protesting won’t solve the problem, but it will draw attention to it. The first step in solving a problem is identifying what it is. The second step is identifying its source. The third step is taking action.
So you should thank people like Kaepernick, who bring attention to our problems as a nation and help us to identify them and their sources. His comment was far from ignorant, though some people have said it was. Again, I don’t know anything about him and am not judging his overall ignorance. He is certainly more privileged than most people, but that does not invalidate his statement. After all, it is his opinion, which can not be invalidated by the opinion of others.
The National Anthem itself is not a source of injustice, but its lyrics certainly help us to identify the source of that injustice.
That being said, if loving an idea like “America” or “Patriotism” is more important to you than loving people, then you will certainly not understand the meaning of this post.
Here are some interesting articles with varying viewpoints that you should read if you are interested in this debate:
The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro
A transcription of Frederick Douglass’ speech in Rochester, New York, July 5, 1852.
Racist Principles: Slavery and the Constitution
An article that argues that the Constitution “protected and upheld” the institution of slavery. Includes the “three fifths” clause and the “delivered up” clause.
What the Constitution Really Says About Race and Slavery
An article that argues that the Constitution was neither anti-slavery nor pro-slavery. Interprets the Constitution as a carefully worded document intended to uphold justice and equality.
And of course, the documents with which most Americans, including this writer, are not familiar enough:
The US Constitution
A transcription of the original US Constitution written in 1787, gone into effect in 1789 and fully ratified by 1790.
The Bill of Rights Institute
Everything you ever wanted to know about the foundation of America from the Declaration of Independence to the Civil Rights Movement.