The silence from people who have criticized Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem since two police shootings of unarmed black men within twenty four hours has been deafening.
In my mind, Kaepernick is the ultimate patriot. In my mind, patriotism is not mindlessly reciting words that someone else wrote to a flag or standing for a song. Patriotism is staying engaged with our country. Patriotism is an act. Being a patriot means celebrating the good things our country is doing, but also looking at the bad things it is doing and pointing it out and saying, “this is not acceptable! Our country is better than this!”
Kaepernick is drawing attention to the violence against people of color in the US and saying it is unacceptable. He is doing it peacefully and in a way that causes no harm to anyone. However, he has been intensely criticized for it. He has even received death threats.
My Facebook feed flooded with posts about how we stand at the anthem to honor the sacrifices of our troops.
Yet I really doubt our troops were fighting for the right to stand for an anthem. But how about the right to due process? Or a fair trial? Or the right to not be judged, condemned and executed for the color of your skin?
Yet the thing that really amazes me is how people believe that respect can be enforced. A football player refuses to stand for the anthem? They lose their endorsements. A student sits out the pledge? Dock her grade. There is a group of people who seem to think that everyone should be forced into patriotic displays and to show respect.
Yet respect is earned.
When you intimidate people into patriotic (or religious for that matter) displays, you aren’t creating respect, you are creating fear. Not to mention resentment. You are also silencing people. And we have a right to freedom of speech in this country.
Our country has a race problem. White people need to stop telling people of color to stand for the anthem of a country where police are shooting them in cold blood. If we want people to stand for our anthem, then we need to give them a reason to do so. When someone is willing to risk public censure, endorsements, and the possibility of receiving death threats to make a statement, then we need to listen. Because what they have to say is likely very important.