Kneeling during the national anthem
Colin Kaepernick, the back-up quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers pro football team, created a flashpoint of support and criticism last week by kneeling during the playing of our National Anthem as a protest against the continued oppression of blacks in this country and police brutality against that same group of people. President Obama defended Kap's first amendment right to do that but at the same time, sympathized with the men and women in uniform who have fought and died defending our flag and our freedom.
And therein lies the rub. Most of the people I've spoken with locally who oppose Kap's actions understand the reason for his civil disobedience but they're opposed to the tactic he chose to highlight that reason. They think it's unpatriotic and a slap in the face to our people in uniform. On the other hand, there is a veterans' blog that supports his stance saying they fought to defend the freedom of all Americans and that freedom of speech is one of the most important freedoms we have.
This protest is similar to the black power protests during the 1968 summer Olympics in Mexico City when black medal winners from this country stood on the podium with clenched fists raised over their heads and their heads bowed during the playing of the anthem. Kneeling during the anthem highlights the fact that a racial divide continues to plague this country as it has since blacks were first made slaves.
I too support Kaepernick's first amendment right to express his beliefs, no matter how controversial they are, but like others, believe he picked the wrong forum. Our national anthem is about how this country was formed and the battles we had to fight to achieve our freedom. It was written to honor our country and many people of color realize that and choose not to join Kapernick, even though they feel the same frustrations he allegedly does.
That's one of the reasons why more blacks aren't supporting Kapernick and there are many others. Perhaps they're fearful of the repercussions they would experience if they do so. Maybe they're trying to protect their status or their reputations. Maybe they agree with the reason but not the method. We're always trying to generalize what large groups of people do and why they do it and it's a failed exercise because even though we belong to a group, we're individuals first. That means that most people tend to think for themselves rather than going along with the crowd and I think many supporters of Kapernick fall into that mindset.
There's another theory about why Kaepernick did what he did. Tony La Russa, former manager of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, believes that Kap did it to stay relevant. Kapernick has gone from being a starting quarterback and a potential star in the game to a backup quarterback and backup quarterbacks get no notoriety or publicity unless they create some for themselves. La Russa thinks that's what Kap is doing to keep his name in the spotlight and dishonoring the flag and the anthem are not good ways to do it.
So once again there are as many reasons in the minds of others for Kaepernick's protest and his method of protesting as there are people and none of the are likely to be 100% right. The real question is whether his protest is expanding the discussion against black oppression by white authority figures and it seems to me it's doing just the opposite. Instead of talking about solutions to the problem, the debate is about Kapernick and his method of protest which misses the point entirely.
If you choose to draw attention to a social problem, the focus should be on the problem and not the person. That's where Kaepernick screwed up!