“People don’t realize what’s really going on in this country. There are a lot things that are going on that are unjust. People aren’t being held accountable for. And that’s something that needs to change. That’s something that this country stands for freedom, liberty, and justice for all. And it’s not happening for all right now…This stand wasn’t for me. This stand wasn’t because I feel like I’m being put down in any kind of way. This is because I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice, people that don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard, and affect change. So I’m in the position where I can do that, and I’m going to do that for people that can’t.”
His decision not to take part in this daily ritual of patriotism has sparked controversy and incited strong reactions for and against him, including fans burning his jersey. People see his actions as a swipe against the police and the military while others view him taking a stand against injustice.
Over the past few years, police brutality has made its way to the center of American discourse. The arguments over the uses of force, racial profiling and perceptions of police, and the leniency of police punishments are all highly opinionated on both sides and have a lot of gray areas. Every police interaction is different and requires reasonable judgment in a short amount of time. Yet video recordings of these interactions that have surfaced online show police acting beyond the legal framework.
There is one thing that is brazenly clear in the fog of this debate; it is the lack of communication between the police and the communities they patrol. What is worse is that mainstream and social media are dividing people more and more; those who support the police vs. Black Lives Matter, those who call Kaepernick’s actions unpatriotic vs. those who hail Kaepernick’s dissent as patriotic. Yet behind these veils of division, there is a unifying truth that the media fails to cover.
Kaepernick’s demonstration is not just about police brutality; that is just one part of the whole story. Whether he intended to or not, his refusal to stand is a protest of the corrupt institutions that are undermining America. Just read Kaepernick’s statement about this year’s Presidential Election-
“You have Hillary who has called black teens or black kids super predators, you have Donald Trump who’s openly racist. We have a presidential candidate who has deleted emails and done things illegally and is a presidential candidate. That doesn’t make sense to me because if that was any other person you’d be in prison. So, what is this country really standing for?
The Answer to Kaepernick’s question:
What America stands for today is money, and there are several reasons that point to this fact. Due to the Supreme Court decisions of Buckley V. Valeo and Citizens United V. FEC, campaign finance laws gives a disproportionate voice to those who have the resources to back large donations. To make matters even more nefarious, the foreign influence in the 2016 general election on both candidates is extremely alarming. Hillary Clinton and The Clinton Foundation has suspicious connections to oppressing regimes around the world. Donald Trump has substantial financial ties to Russia. Over forty years of the War on Drugs has brought on the militarization of police that has cultivated a culture of aggression and has incentivised the incarceration of people for harmless crimes. Kaepernick may have just meant to protest police brutality, but the meaning behind his words are far beyond that; they are an indirect disapproval of the status quo as a whole.
Kaepernick feels something is wrong in America and had the courage to act on his beliefs. He follows in the footsteps of Johnnie Carlos and Tommie Smith whose Black Panther Salute during the 1968 Summer Olympics resulted in scorn from the media and a constant barrage of death threats. Today the two men are revered for their actions, and they even received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2008 ESPYs.
For those who call Kaepernick’s actions unpatriotic, you do not know what patriotism is. Just because you stand for a flag does not mean you stand for “liberty and justice for all.” I applaud Colin Kaepernick for exercising his first amendment right and using his platform to do so. I hope that others look at his words to see the point he is trying to prove instead of relying on the opinions of commentators who incite division to improve their own publicity.
I will end this post with a quote that is often misattributed to Thomas Jefferson:
“Dissent is the highest form of patriotism“-Mayor of New York City, John Lindsay