I Sit With Kaepernick

Recently San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has stirred controversy by taking a political stance against the national anthem. A literal stance. For the past several weeks Kaepernick has taken a knee during the national anthem. Although NFL players are encouraged to stand for the national anthem, they are not required to. Despite not breaking any rules, Kaepernick’s actions have caused national outrage.
Privileged people want to define patriotism as silence, as blindly accepting the injustice and oppression in our country, but Kaepernick has taken strides to break this silence. Wealthy black men are often, implicitly, told not to bite the hand that feeds them. But Kaepernick’s defiance against the NFL is significant, marking a point in history where we will once again not let privilege push us down. He has spoke articulately about his protest and acted gracefully in the face of the bigoted words being hurled at him by oppositioners. Kaepernick is a stunning definition of peaceful protest.
The constant barrage of criticism withstanding, Kaepernick has spurred a movement.
According to CBS news reporter, Marcio Jose Sanchez, even high school athletes are following suit. CBS reports that Preston Brown, football coach at Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden, New Jersey (a predominately black area) took a knee during the anthem before his first game of the season. All but two of his players did as well, despite not being requested to. In Rockford, Illinois, several players at Auburn High took a knee during the national anthem. Seven players who attend schools in the Minneapolis Public School system took a knee during the anthem as well. But Kaepernick isn’t kneeling alone in the NFL, he has been joined by several of his teammates: Eric Reid, Antoine Bethea, and Eli Harold. In addition, Martellus Bennett, and Devin and Jason McCourty of the New England Patriots have joined, as well as Kenny Britt and Robert Quinn of the Los Angeles Rams, Wesley Woodyard and Jurrell Casey of the Tennessee Titans, Arian Foster, Michael Thomas, Jelani Jenkins, and Kenny Stills of the Miami Dolphins, Marcus Peters of the Kansas City Chiefs, and Jeremy Lane of the Seattle Seahawks.
Blind patriotism has been indoctrinated into us. We have all experienced twelve years of being told to face the classroom flag and place our hands on our hearts. We are never told why we should pledge our unwavering dedication to a country with so much blood on its hands. James Baldwin once wrote “it comes with great shock to discover that the flag which you have pledged allegiance… has not pledged allegiance to you”. As a woman, I have witnessed men try to pry my own bodily autonomy away from me. As a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, I have witnessed forty-nine members taken from me in an act of terrorism. And as someone who stands in solidarity with black America, I have witnessed the murder of too many loved ones. All the while, American politicians have made no attempt to help these marginalized communities on a federal level. How can I stand, hold my hand to my heart, and face the American flag knowing that my country has done nothing to protect me or the people who face similar struggles?
NFL fans booed when, on 9/11, players still refused to stand for the national anthem and took to social media to express their outrage. I am waiting for this many white people to express anger over Trayvon Martin’s murderer never even being put on trial. To express anger over seeing a white cop stand over Mike Brown’s lifeless body. To express anger after hearing Eric Garner gasp and beg for his last breaths. America has given me the first amendment, and I will wield it until I see justice.