Colin Kaepernick takes a stand – by sitting down
Colin Kaepernick is a player for the San Francisco 49ers – an American Football Team. For the past couple games, Kaepernick has protested the treatment of black Americans by refusing to stand during the National anthem. This has sparked a national controversy, with people booing him and claiming he is disrespecting the country, while others are supporting him and his right to free speech.
Even Presidential candidate Donald Trump has weighed in, saying “I think it’s a terrible thing, and you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him” (BBC News, “NFL Player Colin Kaepernick Snubs National Anthem Again”).
From my perspective, this controversy is ridiculous. Kaepernick is simply exercising his freedom of speech and right to peacefully protest what he feels is an unjust system. I hap
pen to agree with him, but even if I didn’t, he is simply expressing his opinion. Now of course others have the right to call him out or disagree with him – that’s their right to free speech. But those who disagree with Kapernick tread the line of “free speech” and “hate speech.” While protected by the Constitution as a form of free speech (see historical Supreme Court cases: Bradenburg v. Ohio, R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, and more recently, Snyder v. Phelps) hate speech is nonetheless clearly racially guided, and harmful.
Trump is essentially telling Kaepernick, “This country is racist. Get over it or get out.”
This unquestioning recital and following of the National Anthem is nothing short of patriotic brainwashing. Those are strong words, but by teaching people that it’s a Bad Thing to protest something as simple as a song about our country, it’s teaching them that the Country is more important than the rights of its people. This is especially concerning considering the lyrics to the National Anthem:
Oh, say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner! O long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wiped out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Now, I didn’t even know that there were four verses to the song before this controversy came about. I, like many other Americans, only knew the first verse, which is the one we sing. But the rest of the song, particularly the third verse, “No refuge could save the hireling and slave / From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave” is racist, celebrating the death of slaves. Now, this song is a product of its time, and is meant to be overall a song of triumph for defeating the British, not glamorizing slavery; HOWEVER, it is 2016. We should be looking critically at what was once deemed the norm and examining whether or not it should be still kept in use for the times we live in. The anthem was once a proud song of victory, but we no longer need a song of victory over the British.
Kaepernick’s point is that he will not glorify a country who claims to be equal and free when so many are still oppressed.
I agree with him. This country is not so much the ideal of “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” when people, particularly black people, are being murdered in the streets for no good reason, and the privileged white people turn their heads and do nothing. (Important to note: I am a privileged white person). Furthermore, how can we claim to be the land of the free when people want to attack someone for expressing his right to free speech – one of the freedoms that comes with living in this country?
Kaepernick is in the right. But by using phrases such as “…snubs National Anthem…” the news and the public are painting a picture of him being in the wrong. “Snubs” has a very negative connotation, even if it is a technically correct word to use, because it implies an insult. And maybe he does mean it as an insult to the flag and the country. But he more likely means simply that there are injustices that need to be righted, and he is drawing attention to them.
Unfortunately, he is drawing more attention to himself than to the plight of black Americans. People are ignoring his message in favor of criticizing or supporting him and his rights. But his message needs to be heard. People are oppressed, they aren’t given equal opportunities, or equal treatment. They are murdered in the streets, and yes, it is a race thing, because when a black man is shot for being suspecting of having a weapon in a shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach, whereas a white active shooter is taken in peacefully, we have a problem.
Others have said this more eloquently and decisively than I ever will be able to. But Kaepernick’s message is important. We need to think about what he’s protesting for, not just about the fact that he is protesting.