I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”
– James A. Baldwin
Colin Kaepernick took a knee for injustice and inequality. Colin Kaepernick took a knee for the increasing number of unarmed black people killed by police, with no conviction for their killers. Colin Kaepernick took a knee for systematic oppression of people of color. Colin Kaepernick took a knee for police brutality. Colin Kaepernick took a knee for a better America.
This protest is not about the flag. This protest is not about the national anthem. This protest is not about the U.S. military. But somehow over the past week the narrative has been hijacked. Beginning with a rally in Alabama on Friday, to a firestorm of tweets over the weekend, President Trump called out the NFL for disrespecting the flag and the national anthem (which would not be a bad thing, but that’s for another post). His claims could not be farther from the truth. Kaepernick’s former teammate Eric Reid explained in a recent article that they chose to kneel instead of sitting because they felt kneeling was a more respectful gesture. “I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy,” Reid said. Injustice, racism, oppression, police brutality—these are all tragedies.
Backlash surrounding this type of protest is nothing new. Throughout history, those fighting against injustice were persecuted during their time of protest: Muhammad Ali when he protested the Vietnam war…Rosa Parks during the Montgomery Bus Boycott…Nelson Mandela in his fight against apartheid in South Africa…1968 Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos giving the “black power salute” during the National Anthem…. Today, these same people who were criticized and demonized are celebrated as heroes and icons. This change is a great thing, but why did it take us lifetime to realize that what they were doing was right?
It saddens me when those protesting are called “sons of b******” by the President of the United States or to see that a pastor has said that they should be “shot in the head” while neo-Nazi’s and white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville were praised as “very fine people”. Why is it that when we begin to discuss issues like racial inequity, people are so quick to divert the conversation? Let’s admit it – America is not perfect. She has her blemishes and shortcomings, but we cannot change these shortcomings if we do not begin to talk about them. Let’s keep the focus on what this protest is truly about. Let’s not feed into the noise around this new narrative that others are spinning. Those against the protests are afraid to admit that the America they love is not the America for all. So instead of owning up to that fact, they are changing the conversation to something that makes them feel more comfortable. I say, let’s get uncomfortable. We desperately need to have a dialogue about these issues.
I applaud Colin Kaepernick. I applaud him for staying strong and not wavering in his convictions. I applaud him for not letting the threat of losing his job deter him from fighting for what is right. In my eyes, Kaepernick is already an American hero. Hopefully it won’t take 50 years for others to realize this too.
Let’s all take a knee for justice and equality. Let’s all take a knee for a better America. Let’s all take a knee for Colin Kaepernick.