A little over a month ago, Colin Kaepernick – the former starting quarterback for the San-Fransisco 49ers – decided to sit during the play of the national anthem. Kaepernick refused to stand for the anthem as a form of protest. He later explained his action by saying that was not going to “stand and honor a country that oppresses black people”. This incident ignited a debate that still has people talking today. Conservatives say he is unpatriotic, and that he should stand. Liberals argue that he has the right to protest. Some even applaud his courage for taking such a controversial stand. I would consider myself a liberal when it comes to social issues. However, I’m 100% against Kaepernick’s stance (or lack thereof).
Before I discuss why I’m against Kaepernick’s protest, let’s make one thing clear: Kaepernick has the right to protest! No one with common sense could/would argue against his right to protest. Having the right to protest doesn’t make one’s protest valid. The question then becomes: is Kaepernick’s protest legitimate? Let’s look at the facts.
To justify his protest, Kaepernick said that America is a “country that oppresses black people”. That statement is at best partially incorrect. At worst, it is a complete mischaracterization of what this great nation is.
As I said earlier, I consider myself a liberal when it comes to social issues. As a liberal, I have a message for my liberal friends: WE CANNOT HAVE IT BOTH WAYS.
Yes, the first amendment gives Colin Kaepernick the right to sit and protest the national anthem. However, the first amendment also gives every racist person in the US, the right to make racists statements. When Drumpf says: “Mexicans are rapists”, us liberals want to denounce how racist his comments are, instead of defending his right to say it. That is hypocritical. If we’re going to denounce how wrong Drumpf’s comments are, we have to call out Kaepernick for how wrong his comments are too. If we want to ignore the validity of Kaepernick’s message and defend his right to protest, let’s also defend Drumpf’s right to make all the bigotted statements he has made, no matter how wrong they are.
Donald Drumpf recently decided to attempt to reach out the African-American community to broaden his base of supporters. During one of his speeches, Drumpf said this about the African-American community: “Your schools are no good, when you get in the streets you get shot. ” After that speech, I watch most liberals on TV rebutting Drumpf’s claims. Most of them said that Drumpf was misinformed and that he had a wrong perception of the African-American community. Again, liberals: WE CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS! We can’t say blacks are doing well when someone attacks us, but when it’s convenient, we want to say blacks are being oppressed.
The poverty rate in the African-American community today is about 28%. Let’s say for a second that being oppressed means being poor. That would mean only 28% of the African-American population is being oppressed, leaving a majority (72% of African-American) unoppressed. We all know however that being poor is not a form of oppression.
Now let’s say oppression means being killed that the police. This seems to be the hottest topic these days. Last year (2015) there were an estimated 74.5 million African-Americans in the US. Last year, 306 African-Americans were killed by the police. Most of those killed by police were armed. For the sake of argument, let’s say all 306 were unarmed. This would mean that in 2015, .000004% if the African-American community was shot and killed by the police. Here again, the oppression argument falls short. An overwhelming majority of African-American DO NOT get killed by police.
I know at times it feels as though unarmed black man get shot “every day” by the policy. That is utterly FALSE. Just because we feel as though things are worse, doesn’t mean they actually are. Drumpf, for example, feels as though Mexicans are rapist. That statement is as false as saying that America is a country that oppresses black people. Both statements, being as false as they are, and coming from influential people like Drumpf and Kaepernick, are irresponsible and divisive. They perpetuate a distorted version of reality. Both statements incite people on both sides of the isle, to feel as though things are worse than they actually are. It makes people feel hopeless. It makes people feel desperate. When people feel hopeless and desperate, they’re more likely to engage in acts detrimental to themselves, like voting for Drumpf or looting stores during peaceful protests.
No, America isn’t perfect. Yes, there is a plethora of issues yet to be resolved in this country. The income inequality is still too high. Women are still getting paid less to do the same amount of work. Education maybe too pricey. I can go on and on and on!
However, there are also great things about America. The United States is one of the few countries in the world where same-sex marriage is legal. America is one of the leading nations in the world when it comes to technological advances. Companies like Google, Facebook, Tesla, and even Amazon are leading the way. The United States is a country that has elected an African-American as a president. Most importantly, America is a country that allows Kaepernick to do what he loves for a living, and make millions of dollars doing that. This is not an opportunity that is as readily available to people in other nations.
So, saying that America is a country that oppresses black people is at best partially incorrect. Kaepernick’s message and stance, like that of Donald Drumpf, focuses on what is wrong with America rather than focusing on what is right with it. As a positive person, I cannot endorse nor stand behind either stance.
Finally, I cannot agree with Kaepernick because of how absurd the premise of his protest is. In this case, the premise of his protest is: “I won’t stand and honor the anthem because my country has committed acts that we’re not proud of”. According to this logic, NO ONE, anywhere in the world should stand up for any anthem. As you know, there aren’t any perfect countries in the world. Honoring one’s anthem to me is about celebrating what is right with a country, not pointing out what is wrong with it.
To summarize, I don’t believe Kaepernick should shut up and just play football. Speaking out on issues is important and should be done. What’s more important however, is to make responsible, and truthful statements when speaking out on issues. Saying that America is a “country that oppresses black people” is only part of the possible truth. Only mentioning this part, without mentioning everything else that is good about America, makes his statement inaccurate, irresponsible and divisive. Making such comments makes Kaepernick’s followers feel as though the situation in this country is worse than it actually is. As I said earlier, when people feel hopeless, they tend to behave badly. I believe moving forward is about being able to understand the ills of any situation, putting them into proper context, and developing a positive plan for the future. I don’t believe Kaepernick should shut up, but he should definitely rethink his stance. Or at least try to come up with a concrete solution to solve the problem. If he tried to come up with a solution, he’d realized this problem is much more intricate than any of us realize. Coming up with a real, sustainable solution, starts with open and honest conversations, not uninformed, misleading and divisive ones.