By now, most of you have probably heard of Colin Kaepernick. I’m not the most football-savvy individual, but I am a news junkie and occasionally overhear my husband tuning into ESPN in the mornings, so this story has been all over my radar. Before I dive into my thoughts, I’ll give you a brief summary.
In case you missed it, Kaepernick, quarterback for the 49ers, decided in the preseason to sit during the National Anthem. When asked about this, he stated, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.” He then added that he would continue to protest until he feels like the American flag represents what it’s supposed to represent. In the last preseason game, he decided that kneeling during the National Anthem for this season would be more respectful than simply sitting.
And here’s where my anger comes in: I have loved ones that serve in our military. Now, I was extremely patriotic before these said loved ones joined the military, but my patriotism and pride in my country grew even more upon their enlisting and since then as I’ve seen their sacrifice.
When I think of the National Anthem, I think of the people who have served and are currently serving. I think about their sacrifice–risking their lives, giving up time with their families to fight for our security, domestic and abroad. I am so extremely proud of these amazing men and women who serve, I could never not stand and sing the National Anthem. I could never politicize this song (or the flag) and what it means, because to me, that is so extremely selfish. In the words of a really smart person I know, “The message Kaepernick is sending is ‘I hate America’ and not, ‘I love black people.’ By protesting the flag, he’s protesting what it stands for: freedom and justice for all, which is the opposite of the point he’s trying to make.” I couldn’t agree more with this statement.
How an athlete could see men and women in the military standing in front of them on the field during the anthem and NOT stand to respect them is beyond me. Maybe people like Kaepernick don’t have people they care about in the military and can’t quite grasp the magnitude of it all. Maybe it will require having their own family or friends go for a deployment and be left wondering if any news article about a roadside bomb or attack is about their loved one. Maybe once that happens, they’ll understand the undeniable pride one feels for their country. Whatever it takes, I hope he and many others can understand that so many of us are not just upset over a song. He’s right, he has the freedom to make the decision to silently protest–but he has that decision because of the people he’s disrespecting. The irony is palpable.
Yes, there are many things wrong happening in our country today. Yes, I cringe and fight back tears many evenings when I turn the news on. As a human being, my heart breaks when I hear of yet another African-American being shot and killed by law enforcement. It’s unacceptable and things need to change. (Side note: I cannot attempt to understand the bravery that is required to be in law enforcement, especially today. I don’t make any assumptions about any police officers that have shot at any individuals, because I was not there and cannot know the full extent of what took place. I am extremely thankful to all those in blue, and will continue to hold the belief that 99.9% of law enforcement is made up of good people who genuinely want to serve and protect.)
That being said, if you want to fight against injustice, STAND UP. Sitting (or kneeling) gets nothing done–ask our men and women who are serving us today. What if they decided that they weren’t treated fairly, and that they should just take a seat? Our amazing men and women serving in the military are fighting injustice all over the world, so that you and I can go about our normal days. I would respect Colin Kaepernick, and many others for that matter, a heck of a lot more if they put their money where their mouths are (and I mean that quite literally in Kaepernick’s case). What if instead of simply disrespecting those serving our country during the National Anthem, these athletes worked to make a change. A silent protest isn’t going to cut it here, Colin.
And another thing…can the judgmental people of America please stop generalizing all white people?! I am so sick and tired of being told that I don’t feel enough and that what I’m doing is not good enough. You don’t know my heart or my thoughts on this matter. If Colin Kaepernick literally sitting down and doing nothing is motivational enough for you, how is my heart breaking over this not enough? Sweet Moses, let’s just stop making assumptions about one another and just be good to each other!
So here’s what I propose: You want to create change? DO something! Call your local law enforcement and suggest ways to prevent this from happening in your community. Who cares if they’re already working on a plan–YOU could have a new idea they hadn’t thought of before. Better yet, come up with comprehensive plans to educate people in your community on all different matters, but especially on what it means to be a responsible, law-abiding citizen (like this new bill that recently passed in Illinois, or these workshops offered by the New York Civil Liberties Union). Write to your local representative and request an open forum in your area, for community members to be able to talk to local law enforcement openly and candidly about their thoughts and concerns. Talk to others in your area about racial matters and how we can be game-changers to make things better for every single person.
And lastly, this is for all you parents out there: raise good people. I don’t care what race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, etc. you are…it should not be that hard to raise decent humans. Teach your children about responsibility, respect, love, and kindness. If we all really knew these things and acted accordingly, I’m sure our world would look so much different today. It can’t be that complicated, can it?
So America, how will you respond? Will you silently sit (or kneel) by and hope for change, or will you stand up and do something?