When I first heard that Colin Kaepernick had refrained from standing for the national anthem, I was taken aback and felt the slightest twinge of anger. I believe that is a very knee-jerk reaction for any American who was born and raised to be proud of and love their country. However, after taking a moment to understand why Kaepernick did what he did, I realized that my pride as an American momentarily stood in the way of my compassion as a human being. The problem was that for a second, I allowed my own personal experience to stand in the way of a much bigger picture. It is my belief that fellow Americans who are criticizing Kaepernick's actions are allowing the same issue of perspective to continue affect their reasoning. In the fallout of his actions, the 49ers quarterback has been attacked for disrespecting his country, the men and women who have died protecting it, and the white community as a whole.
While at a cursory glance it might seem that that is what Kaepernick was doing, if given even a moment of extra thought, people would understand that his actions in no way contradict the values that we hold as Americans, but rather supports them in one of the freest and greatest ways possible.
For those who feel that Kaepernick's actions disrespect our country, our nation was built on people taking a stand for what they believe in; for doing something risky and seemingly disloyal to fight for equal rights and opportunities. And no, the act of not standing for the national anthem will not spark a war that attempts to disestablish the government. What it will do is call attention to the inequalities that African Americans face everyday in our so-called equal nations. Additionally, from the women's rights movement to Martin Luther King Jr.'s impact on our country, peaceful protest has long been a cornerstone to American advancement. There is nothing more peaceful than choosing to remain quietly yet noticeably seated. While many claim that this form of peaceful protest was wrong in that it disrespected the song of our country, what strikes many as distinctly more disrespectful is the fact that hundreds of innocent lives are lost due to racial profiling and irresponsible racism that plagues our law enforcement. Americans should be less concerned with something that disrespects a national symbol, than with actions that disrespect national lives. Kaepernick never said that he was ashamed to be an American or that he held disrespect for his country. His actions stood for the sadness and anger he feels when he sees that other Americans are not acting under the equality and justice that our anthem stands for. He is not protesting our nations, he is protesting that we have moved away from the ideals that our nation stands for, which is perhaps one of the most American things a person can do.
As for the argument that Kaepernick is disrespecting the lives lost defending our freedom, I would like to counter that he is doing exactly the opposite. By using his freedom of action, Kaepernick is taking full advantage of the liberties that our military has fought to secure for us. Again, Kaepernick is not sitting out of context for our country and its most honorable men and women, rather he is sitting in protest that the rights that our military fights for are being denied to African Americans through out the nation. By using his platform to bring attention to this issue, he is honoring the lives of Americans who died defending our country by exercising the rights they fought to protect.
Finally, many have argued that because Kaepernick is half white, and was adopted and raised by white parents, he has no right to take a stand on this very important issue of racism in our country. The issue is, these people are not looking at the bigger picture. Kaepernick is not protesting against his family or his own personal experiences. In fact, he is not making this about himself at all. His background is not the discussion point here, and it should remain irrelevant. He is protesting the injustice that fellow African Americans, who are not as privileged or fortunate as him face everyday. While it is wonderful that Kaepernick was able to be so successful, the reality remains that racism is still very alive in America, particularly seen through the lives of black people lost to law enforcement. Attempting to use the success of one black man to make the struggles that the community as a whole faces illegitimate, is both ignorant and irresponsible. Kaepernick is not protesting for the rights of one man, he is protesting for the rights of a community as a whole. In the same vein, he is not attacking the entire white community. Clearly he has white people in his life who have treated him with love and respect. So instead of distorting his stance, we must all look at it as something that is bigger than him. This is not about an isolated case or individual actions. This is about a culture that needs to change, and one man's attempts to draw attention to that.