On Colin Kaepernick and America
Eddie Damstra | Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Last Friday night, Colin Kaepernick quickly transformed from a subpar backup quarterback into one of America’s most polarizing figures. Kaepernick, as many already know, chose to sit down during the playing of the national anthem prior to Friday’s game versus the Green Bay Packers. After the game, Kaepernick said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Additionally, he accused police officers of “getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” Quite unsurprisingly, this caused great controversy.
At first, I did not think Kaepernick’s display deserved prolonged discussion, let alone an article in The Observer. However, as I observed the efforts of many in the media to defend Kaepernick’s decision and considered the harmful impact such a display could have, I concluded that it was certainly appropriate to devote time and effort to call into question his actions.
It is important to affirm that Colin Kaepernick has the absolute right to sit down during the national anthem. I, in no way, intend to assert he should be unable to express his beliefs, no matter how unfounded they are. It is ironic, however, that Kaepernick is choosing to disrespect America by utilizing the rights that the nation guarantees him. He is, essentially, clinging onto the core ideals of the very nation he claims to be condemning. In doing so, Kaepernick is being not only counterintuitive but hypocritical. Still, it is his right to be so.
With that said, the First Amendment does not entitle one to say or act without fear of criticism. In fact, when displays as thoughtless and disrespectful as Kaepernick’s are made, criticism is not only appropriate, it is necessary. Unfortunately, many people have failed in this regard. Many of those who have criticized Kaepernick have done so clumsily. People have asserted that Kaepernick’s argument is invalid because of his biracial heritage or the fact that his adoptive parents are white. Numerous people have also emphasized his wealth when criticizing the display. These people have it all wrong. Kaepernick’s race, parents, or wealth do not disqualify his argument; rather, his blanket generalizations and unsupported accusations do.
There is no question racism still exists in America. We, as a nation, continue to struggle in eradicating such an evil. Additionally, it is undeniably true that police brutality is an issue the nation is currently grappling with. However, to move from recognizing such realities to accusing an entire nation and government of systematically oppressing a particular group of people is absolutely ludicrous. In stating that America, collectively as a nation, oppresses people of color, Kaepernick relies on spouting incendiary rhetoric, instead of providing appropriate evidence.
Colin Kaepernick deliberately disrespected the United States, and he did so in conjunction with unsubstantiated indictments of law enforcement and America as a whole. For that, he should be scrutinized in the public eye. We are setting a very dangerous precedent if we allow reckless demonstrations such as Kaepernick’s to go unchallenged.
America is not a flawless nation, but it is also not a land of oppression. We should all feel compelled to stand during the national anthem, not as a proclamation of American perfection but out of a dual sense of gratitude and readiness to make positive change.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.