First, we have to ask “What is patriotism?” Black people have fought and died for America since its founding, stolen, only to remain a slave in some form and certainly always a second class citizen. White say and have said, “Do as we say?” The rights supposedly grant to black folk have always been circumvent to something that does not apply. For example, the one that says “all men are created equal” or that thing about freedom of speech or expression! Their view is that they pay him millions, so shut up and behave!
On Friday night, before a 49ers preseason game against the Packers, quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose not to stand for the national anthem, and he has been chastised soundly and horribly for this choice. It wasn’t an accident. He didn’t forget. He wasn’t injured. He stayed seated – on purpose. It was a deliberate act of protest. It was a protest for the horrors and treatment of black people in America and the police kills that go unaddressed. I for one applaud his stance!
Similarly, black athletes were chastised at the recent Olympic for not putting their hand over their hearts; i.e., Gabby Douglas and others. Colin Kaepernick, like millions of black people all over this country, has had enough. I’ve had enough. All the black people I know and love has had enough. If you don’t know what we’ve had enough of, you are probably white and probably live in a bubble that has protected you not only from the injustice but even from the news of its harsh reality.
The levels of injustice, racism, bigotry and brutality faced by people of color have crossed an invisible threshold in America. The straw has broken the camel’s back has been broken. It was not just the violent police killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling this summer that pushed many of us past our breaking point, but the accumulation of injustices and the corresponding unwillingness of this nation to truly take the problem seriously or deny that it even exists that have put us where we are now. It’s too much.
What Colin Kaepernick did, not only by refusing to stand, but by then very clearly saying that he was refusing to stand for an anthem to a country that habitually mistreats black people at every area of American life. I think his action was one of the boldest moves in modern American sports. It follows Muhammad Ali’s refusal to fight in the Vietnam War, Jim Brown’s stance on race, and the Black Power salute hoisted in the air at the 1968 Olympics by Tommie Smith and John Carlos. It is a profound statement of being willing to sacrifice himself for the benefit of others!
The stages those athletes were on may have been bigger, but in this generation, in this era, no athlete has ever done something quite like what Colin Kaepernick just did. While I had no idea that he would be the person to make such a protest, being of mix race and his background, it says he is clearly disturbed he has become by injustice in America. We should all be that disturbed and not just for a weekend.
I have actually grown quite used to athletes saying and doing very little about injustice, but we’ve crossed over to the point that even Michael Jordan, who is known for staying away from issues that involve black people. Listen to Trump and it becomes clear they know the wrongs they have purposely inflicted upon people of color; they all know!
So any action or stance against what they call patriotism, as they see it brings out the racists and white supremacists in droves. But what they don’t get is that Kaepernick did not do this for himself. He knows that he is a privileged and wealthy NFL quarterback. He did this for the families of victims of police brutality who are left to do nothing but grieve when their loved ones are killed by the very people paid to protect them. He did this for Tamir Rice, Trayvon, Sterling, and Castile. He did this because he knows, as I know, that the brutality is going to continue, and not a single substantive thing has been done to stop it.
Black people have if you were to ask, without fail, each and every one of will tell you that it pains black people to stand up for the national anthem. Many said they stopped singing it years ago. I did as well. Does that mean they hate America? Does that mean that we hate soldiers? It simply means they see no truth in the words, like “all men are created equal.” It means that right now, black people have no reason to sing a love song to a country that seems to love black culture but not black people. It means that most don’t believe many of the words in the song – Pledge of Allegiance.
This country does not have liberty and justice for all. Never have and I don’t believe it ever will. It’s been over four hundred years as evidence of that! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…