I feel compelled to write something about the … uhm … stand Colin Kaepernick took recently by sitting out the (playing of the) national anthem prior to a game. I’ve already shared the image above on social media showing my support for his actions and now I’ll go further and explain why.
If you don’t support what he did, that’s fine, you have that right, but don’t fix your face to say that he didn’t have a right to do it. As Americans, many of us feel compelled to beat our chests about our “freedoms”, and yet, many Americans have lashed out at Kaepernick, as if he wasn’t allowed to sit out the national anthem and not pay reverence to our flag. Is the double standard there not obvious? Are we free or aren’t we?
Some have stated that, since Kaepernick is a multimillionaire, he has a position of privilege that somehow precludes him from making statements about the systemic oppression and continued devaluation of Black people in this country. His privilege does not make his protest any less valid or his statements any less true. If anything, his standing as a popular athlete can help bring attention to the very problems that those with less status have been speaking up about but had their voices fall upon deaf ears, because they didn’t have the status necessary to bring attention to them.
In the time since Kaepernick’s protest, I’ve seen people burning his jersey, wishing him grievous injury (from a torn ACL to a broken neck) and, of course, hurling vile racial epithets at him. Not only have they completely missed his point, they’ve gone out of their way to prove it.
The irony of all of this is that these are the same people who have shown nothing but the utmost disrespect toward the president and the executive office these past eight years.
It annoys me that Black people are expected to be seen and not heard. The pressure is even greater on Black athletes, like Kaepernick. Black (or bi-racial, in Kaepernick’s case) football players are expected to entertain, to run, to jump, to score touchdowns and earn victories, and they’re supposed to do this while being completely silent. Black people, especially Black people of privilege and in the public eye, aren’t allowed to have opinions. We’re not allowed to speak out against injustice. We can’t comment on race relations in this country. We aren’t allowed to be angry. We’re supposed to be silent.
That’s why I stand in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick and will continue to do so as long as his protest continues. Cam Newton recently said in an interview with GQ magazine that we, as a country, are “beyond racism” when in reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Of course, there wasn’t any backlash from those remarks. With his denial of the existence of racism, he was essentially re-enforcing the status quo, the fictional, gussied up version of reality America would rather we believe, rather than the one that actually exists.
So, once again, you can bash Colin Kaepernick for his refusal to honor the flag during the national anthem, but don’t you dare call him un-American. The mark of a true patriot is a person who loves his country while realizing that it isn’t perfect. It is clear, that there is much more work to be done in this country before America can consider calling itself “perfect.” Before you go out of your way to get riled up and angry at Kaepernick for not showing his support for the flag of this country, how about you take a moment to consider the fact that maybe, just maybe, there is some merit to his protest. Until all people of color, not just Black people, are no longer marginalized and oppressed, America will never be the ideal the flag Kaepernick refused to honor is meant to symbolize.