What’s All the Fuss About?
Reading news articles and Facebook posts, I’ve come to the conclusion that many people don’t actually understand the real reason for this hostility towards the NFL and the players that are refusing to stand for the national anthem and flag at football games. To get the answer, we must do a little homework.
Throughout history, people with a cause have chosen a symbol or a symbolic act to show support for that cause or that protest. It brings awareness, it gets people thinking, and it gives people something to do to show their solidarity with that cause.
Let’s take a look at some examples.
The Bus Boycott
Photo is Public Domain
Rosa Parks and the bus boycott is one of the most famous examples in recent American history. After a hard day at work, Rosa Parks was tired and took a bus home. The bus filled up and some black passengers sitting in the back of the bus, including Rosa Parks, were told to stand so some white passengers could sit. Rosa Parks refused. She ended up being arrested and fined $10 for her “crime.”
So, when the civil rights movement began in earnest, people remembered this injustice that was done to Rosa Parks, and they made buses and their segregated seats into a symbol of black oppression, boycotting certain bus lines with those rules. The famous Freedom Riders in 1961 took the symbol further, with white people who believed in civil rights sitting in the back of the bus while black people sat in the front, a complete reversal of society’s norm in those days. The ride ended in extreme violence towards the people on the bus. A bus and the seating arrangement on it became a symbol….a symbol for civil rights.
The Berlin Wall
Department of Defense Photo
No one who was old enough to remember the late 1980s and early 1990s will forget the tearing down of the Berlin wall. When East and West Germany were finally to be reunited, the wall stood as a stark reminder of the separation it had endured for decades. One side oppressed and the other free. People despised the wall. Many had family on the other side that they hadn’t been allowed to see due to the different governments. So what did people do when East and West Germany became one again? They tore it down. Hammer stroke by hammer stroke, brick by brick. That wall had symbolized oppression and separation, and its destruction now symbolized freedom and the reunification of the German people. One can’t talk about the Berlin wall today without remembering what happened there and how the wall became a famous symbol.
The Boston Tea Party
Photo is Public Domain
How about the Boston Tea Party? Anyone remember learning about that? American colonists were fed up with the British piling taxes upon them when they weren’t represented in British government. They didn’t have a voice in British parliament, so they decided to make noise for themselves. The symbol they chose? Tea, which was one of the most heavily taxed commodities in those times. Colonists raided ships at a Boston port and threw boxes and boxes of tea overboard in protest against taxation without representation.
As you can see in each of these examples, the choice of symbol was made deliberately and selectively for a reason. And they made sense. The bus because of Rosa Parks, the wall because it separated so many people, and tea because it represented heavy taxation.
So Why the Flag?
Then why did Colin Kaepernick choose the anthem and the US flag for his protest against racism and police brutality? He had to have a reason…right? Otherwise, there would be no meaningful connection between the two and it wouldn’t make sense.
I found an article on NFL.com in which they interviewed Colin Kaepernick and asked him that very question. Why did he choose the national anthem and the flag? Here was his answer: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” LINK HERE TO ARTICLE.
This very answer is the reason many, many Americans are angry.
By his statement and his taking a knee, not only did Kaepernick show disrespect for his flag and those who fought and died for it, but he called his fellow Americans racist oppressors. So every time an American now sees Kaepernick or any other player taking a knee instead of standing for the national anthem, they don’t see someone supporting racial equality. They see someone wrongly accusing them and their country of being racist.
Their outrage at this disrespect stems from their indignation at being accused of being something they aren’t. Because while there are undoubtedly some people in America who are racist, the majority of Americans are firm believers in racial equality. In fact, we even believe he has the right to stand for what he believes in and kneel for the flag and anthem if he wants to. His right to do so is not the issue. However! We have the right to be angry over it when he does.
Our country, both its people and its government, have worked hard to ensure that all races are treated equally under the law and to promote and encourage diversity and cultural understanding.
America is a free country for all its citizens, and is, in most Americans’ opinions…the best country in the world. Kaepernick’s choice to protest the anthem and the flag was a mistake. A big mistake. Because Americans take pride in our country and its symbols. And we recognize and honor all our veterans who served our country, our active duty members, and those who paid the ultimate price with their lives to ensure people like Colin Kaepernick don’t get arrested and executed for doing what he did. Because that’s actually what would have happened in some other countries, those who truly oppress their people, if he had disrespected their flag and anthem that way.
People who are upset about #TakeAKnee, the ones burning their NFL shirts and other paraphernalia, the ones calling for players who disrespect the flag to be fired, are declaring their rejection of the accusation that America and her citizens are primarily racist and their rejection of the NFL that supports that accusation. That’s the real reason for the uproar. But don’t just take my word for it. Hear the fans themselves, expressing their rage:
So next time you see someone kneeling during the national anthem, remember the real reason why they’re doing it. They’re calling America and they’re calling you racist. Who wouldn’t be angry at that?
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Author - Sarah Mann TITLE PHOTO: NATIONAL ANTHEM JETS Author: Alan Kotok - Flickr License: Creative Commons Attribution License