The latest topic to become a national conversation has been Colin Kaepernick and his decision to protest the National Anthem because he refuses to “stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Many seem to think that Colin Kaepernick is disrespecting the American Flag, and the anthem itself, which I find to be a dramatized overstatement. Kaepernick is not gesturing any obscenities, creating derogatory dialogue, or even turning his back on the flag, he is just refusing to participate because he feels that the ideals in which the flag and the anthem represent, are not applicable to everyone in the United States. You could argue that not participating is disrespectful, however, the very principles in which the American flag is hoisted, not only protect, but also embody Kaepernicks’ reasons for choosing not to participate. In other words, the governmental structure of the United States was built on the foundation that it would be questioned, and criticized by its own constituents, when they deem it has been unjust. For some people in this country, even though it’s a difficult concept to grasp for those who haven’t experienced it, this country has been unjust.
In the last few weeks, anyone who is anyone has given his or her input on the situation. The mainstream media has, once again, played an enormous role in shaping the debate. You see, the media has mainly asked its viewers to choose a side; you’re either with Kaepernick, or you’re against him and his beliefs. This is what the media does on any major issue—drastically limit the spectrum of acceptable public opinion. For example, I engage in this topic with a co-worker of mine and he takes one side of the argument and I happen to take the other, our friendship will undoubtedly be viewed in at the very least, a different lens from that point forward. The media has also failed miserably by failing to inform the public that there is actually data that supports Kaepernick’s claims. He isn’t just delivering lip service, or making fictitious claims. A study from the Institution on Assets and Social Policy shows that the wealth gap between races continues to widen, and then details the specific causes.
But I’m not writing this to talk about the increased wealth gap between races, although it’s imperative that people are, at the very least, aware of such a thing. I’m writing this to talk about how we as a country villainize, and glorify others. How in the same breath people call Kaepernick a disgrace for voicing his opinions on very real issues our society faces, while Joe Paterno, a man who knew of young boys being sexually abused since 1976 was honored this past weekend, is the very epitome of hypocrisy. And if you praised Muhammad Ali when he recently passed, a man notorious for his controversial actions, but condemn Kaepernick, you have a distorted sense of reality.
Instead of asking the hows: how could Kaepernick do this to our country and flag? Or, how is he being disrespectful, he has every right to sit? No one has asked the most important question—why? Why would someone who, has made millions of dollars as a professional athlete, criticize the very country we live in and the flag we look up at each day? Maybe, just maybe, his opinion is worth listening to, and contains some validity, and that’s the perspective major news networks fail to deliver on a routine basis.
If you have engaged in the rhetoric that instead jumps to conclusions and relentlessly bashes a man for expressing his individual opinion on a national stage, you have completely missed the point. And not only that, but you are proliferating the culture of American exceptionalism. The thought that the United States is the single greatest country in the world bar none, and free of any type of criticism, whether it be from foreigners or natives.
Not only does Kaepernick have every right to sit during the anthem, but he is also clearly not the only one who feels this way. We have seen many other NFL players engage in similar gestures such as kneeling, locking arms, or raising a fist. Stop being disgusted because he isn’t standing for our flag and our song, be disgusted that not every citizen in this country is afforded the same rights as you are. My point is this, if you have not experienced a form oppression in your life whether it’s based off the color of your skin, the religion you believe in, lack of funding for your academic institution, or segregated living—you don’t get to tell those who have been oppressed, that they haven’t.