I’m fascinated by this whole Colin Kaepernick situation. When I first started hearing about his kneeling during the national anthem at the start of NFL games, I thought it sounded pretty reasonable. His statement, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way,“ seemed hard won and honorable. He seemed acutely aware of the risk that he was taking.
I think there is something beautiful about giving voice to the voiceless. I think there is something admirable about taking heat on behalf of others. I think there is something hopeful about wanting our nation to do better.
The condemnation he received, though, was swift and vehement. He was accused of being disrespectful, un-American and anti-veteran. Kaepernick has paid dearly, both professionally and personally, for his actions. Some people, including President Trump, are still losing their minds over this peaceful protest.
Sometimes when the president talks, I think, “He knows he is running a nation and not a plantation, right?” Since when is it okay for the president to call anyone “that son of a bitch” and demand that they be fired?
The last time I checked, it’s not illegal to kneel during the national anthem. There are plenty of religious traditions that don’t say the pledge of allegiance or salute. This includes the Anabaptist branch of Christian reformers such as the Mennonites, Amish and Quakers. My dad was raised Quaker and some of that wariness about the empire demanding blind allegiance rubbed off on me. I don’t put my hand over my heart during the national anthem. I love my country, but I don’t love it above all else.
Would an Amish or Mennonite athlete draw the same kind of ire for protesting the national anthem? Is the problem that Kaepernick didn’t show respect or that a black man didn’t do what he was supposed to do? How is this not about race?
But I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. People who are in the majority and hold the most power don’t usually welcome change. Those who are on top don’t benefit from things changing.
In the end, it seems many white people still struggle when people of color challenge the status quo or get out of line.
As the author Rachel Held Evans tweeted on Friday, “Trump’s in Alabama, stirring an angry crowd to boo a black man who dared engage in peaceful protest. These. Are. White. Supremacist. Rallies.”
As a white mom raising black kids, I’m watching this all very closely. I’m especially interested in the story of Colin being adopted into a white family as an infant. Colin’s mom, Teresa Kaepernick, said in an interview, “We were truly shocked at the amount of racist hatred out there! Until this had occurred, we had naively believed that the racial atmosphere in this country was far better than it actually is. Prayer and talks with our son gave us a much better understanding of the reason for his protest and how we should view it.”
What if respect and love for our nation actually looks like Colin Kaepernick demanding we live up to our ideals? What if these protests are a way to get more of us to finally listen? What if Kaepernick’s kneeling isn’t a form of disrespect but a way to say, “We can do better.”
What a beautiful and eloquent article, expressing the feelings of so many of us.
Excellent and thought provoking. Thank you.
Have you read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ most recent piece in the Atlantic? It makes the claim that it’s all – everything that’s happened in the last two (or two hundred) or so years – about race. It’s horrifying, and if pledging allegiance to the flag comes close to pledging allegiance to the current administration’s way of doing things, then I’m out, too.
Thank you for your poignant thoughts, as always!
And here’s the link to that article: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/10/the-first-white-president-ta-nehisi-coates/537909/
Thanks for telling me about this! I heard him interviewed on NPR and am looking forward to reading it.
Rebecca & I encourage you to submit this splendid prophetic piece to a publication that will reach a wider audience. We suggest sending it to the New York Times, Washington Post, Christian Century, or Presbyterian Outlook.
Thanks & blessings,
Dean & Rebecca Thompson
Thank you so much, Dean and Rebecca! You are always so supportive and kind. I’m very grateful.
It’s a tough topic fo rme. Firstly, becuase he’s an employee being paid to play a game and he’s on his employer’s time when he takes a knee. Should I (or any of my colleagues) make such a bold (love bold) political statment while at work; we would be counseled. Counseling can lead to termination. Secondly, It’s the biggest, best TELEVISED forum to make a statment and I give him credit for being so brave/bold. I agree, “we can do better”. We can and we must. He’s brave to take on his employer (along with the status quo) and remain steadfast in his belief.
I’m equally disappointed to see the volume of people who genuinely assert that we should all be mandated to stand, etc. My willingness to be reverent towards anything is between me and the object of my reverence. Demanding respect is not respect at all.
But as you have so eloquently shared, this has nothing to do with conformity, but rather control. And specifically control of a group that looks different than most of us.
I’ll take a knee. Thanks!
I totally disagree with what he did, but this was a beautifully written article. However, it does not change my disapproval of not standing for the national anthem. I think it shows disrespect of all members of the armed forces, past and present. I will always stand with my hand over my heart when our national anthem is played or sung.
Finally, a voice of reason. You have a real gift of articulating not only your own beliefs and passions, but you have a way of giving voice to the voiceless.
I know there have been many articles written on this, and no doubt there will be more, but I agree with Dean Thompson. This should have a wider readership. I feel sure some of those he listed would be open to this.
Thanks so much. I always look forward to your posts.
Our great grandchildren are mixed race little kids. In them I see the melting pot America is is said to be. Colin’s gesture is just as important and brave as those who die for our country. He chooses to live with the criticism and hateful attacks in order to defend the beliefs the military are trained and ordered and often personally motivated to defend. In our eyes all defenses of our American values should be honored and respected, unless those values are NOT the way we feel in our hearts. What better way, place and time to present what we are supposed to be than during our beautiful national anthem in front of millions of Americans trapped in their expensive seats or glued to their TVs. It makes. me proud.. it should make us all think! “Oh, say, can you see?”
I understand that the US Supreme Court decreed that burning a flag in protest was protected by the constitution. How does a respectful kneeling during the American anthem not get the same respect. Allowing peaceful protest has been used as THE hallmark of our evolved democracy, which we so proudly have proclaimed worth of spreading around the world. Our nation is surely going through a period of regression and devolution. How do we give hope to the oppressed citizens in our land? Let us hope that exposing what is in many of our hearts gives us an opportunity evolve to the level our forefathers wished for us.