The Land of the Free?

Eric+Reed+joins+Colin+Kaepernick+in+protest+against+the+American+flag.

Photo courtesy of Thearon W. Henderson

Eric Reed joins Colin Kaepernick in protest against the American flag.

In the past month, Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, has become a very controversial name in the media. He has broken years of football tradition by not standing for the national anthem. Instead, he silently protests the American flag and does not participate in the pre-game ceremonies. For the first three preseason games, he sat during the national anthem, and for the fourth, he knelt alongside teammate Eric Reid.

Arian Foster, Michael Thomas, Kenny Stills, and Jelani Jenkins from the Miami Dolphins take a knee during the National Anthem.
Photo courtesy of Fox News
Arian Foster, Michael Thomas, Kenny Stills, and Jelani Jenkins from the Miami Dolphins take a knee during the National Anthem.

Kaepernick’s actions has led to many other player from other teams of the NFL to join him in his protest. According to SB Nation, people such as Arian Foster, Michael Thomas, Kenny Stills, and Jelani Jenkins from the Miami Dolphins has knelt during the national anthem. Players from the Rams, Seahawks, and Patriots raised their fists to support Kaepernick and what he stands for.

Because of this, he has received a lot of backlash from people that claim he is unpatriotic and is disrespecting his country. Among these people is the infamous Donald Trump, who said that “[Kaepernick] should find a country that works better for him” (NFL).

The niners coach, Chip Kelly, has also spoken out about Kaepernick. He said that not standing during the anthem is “his right as a citizen” (NFL). Additionally, NFL has also released a statement thats says that “players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.”

Obama, the President of the United States, has also commented about this, and said that he was just “exercising his constitutional right” to bring attention to racial injustice in America. Obama also said that he thinks Kaepernick really “cares about real, legitimate issues that have to  be talked about” (USA Today).

Kaepernick himself has made several comments about why he refuses to stand for the national anthem. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he told USA Today. “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.” Basically, he’s saying that he doesn’t want to support a country that doesn’t acknowledge people of color as equal, and he’s right. Why should he respect a country that never respected him or his people in the first place?

Kaepernick and his supporters are a part of a much larger movement best known as Black Lives Matter. This movement is essential for our society because it brings awareness to the lack of equality in the United States.

Since the first time Europeans brought African Americans to the Americas, black people were never seen as an equal race. Black people never had equal rights as white people, and were enslaved because of the color of their skin. Only a few decades ago were black people given the right to vote, thanks to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Up until the accomplishments of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., black people were forced into racially segregated from white people, receiving the worser end of the deal. They were assigned different restrooms and were not allowed to drink from the same water fountains as white people.  Black children were not able to receive the same education as other children, and faced discrimination on a daily basis.

These examples might be from the past, and people might argue that America is different now, that America is more equal. This is not true; racism is still prevalent in the American society. Racial slurs are so commonly used now that it is incorporated into the daily vernacular. Police officers get away with the murders of people like Mike Brown, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, and many other unarmed black men.

 

Activists pay respect to Mike Brown at a memorial during a protest.
Photo courtesy of Jamelle Bouie
Activists pay respect to Mike Brown at a memorial during a protest.

Black Lives Matter is a movement that tries to seek justice for the inequality people of color face, and it attempts to educate “White America” about the idea of privilege and how privilege is based on how an individual’s skin color.

Kaepernick ties into this because he is using his platform as a way to raise awareness for Black Lives Matter and to put it in the spotlight as a topic of discussion. Since it isn’t a requirement to salute the flag, Kaepernick is simply asserting his constitutional right. However, not everyone views his actions as an act of  free will. A lot of people on the Internet are accusing him of being un-patriotic and disrespecting veterans. A lot of people are attacking and slandering Kaepernick. According to The Atlantic, people like to mock his background and upbringing. They claim that since he grew up with white adoptive parents, it renders him less oppressed. This is not a valid excuse because since he is dark skinned, he will always be viewed as lesser than light skin people.

I’m proud of my dark skin, and I don’t think people of color should be oppressed because of our race.”

— Alyssa Pepito (10)

Alyssa Pepito (10) agrees with Kaepernick’s views and actions. “As a person of color, I agree with him that we don’t really get the same privileges as others do,” she says. “I don’t think he should be hated because he wasn’t doing anything wrong.”

Kaepernick is doing everything in his power to protest inequality, but if the citizens of ignorant America don’t open up their minds to the education of racial problems, this country can never be equal.