Truthdigger of the Week: Colin Kaepernick, for Refusing to Stand During the National Anthem
Posted on Sep 3, 2016
Every week the Truthdig editorial staff selects a Truthdigger of the Week, a group or person worthy of recognition for speaking truth to power, breaking the story or blowing the whistle. It is not a lifetime achievement award. Rather, we’re looking for newsmakers whose actions in a given week are worth celebrating.
The first time Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem as it blasted through a football stadium, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback joined the ranks of famous athletes like John Carlos, Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown, among others, whether he knew it or not. His silent protest, at first unnoticed by the media, instantly became fodder for headlines after the third game at which he decided not to stand to honor the flag of a nation he feels is not honoring its citizens.
Kaepernick’s thoughtful explanations regarding his decision to peacefully protest racial injustice show his willingness to back up his actions with his words, and vice versa. Below are among his reasons for refusing to stand for the anthem, according to The Washington Post:
The ideas behind Kaepernick’s protest are powerful and multifaceted. By refusing to stand for the national anthem, he is standing up for the most vulnerable members of our society, those who are treated differently based on the color of their skin in a country in which systemic racism runs as rampant as it ever has, often in new forms, hiding behind different disguises. His outrage at police violence and racial profiling is based on experiences he and people close to him—and, perhaps most importantly, most people of color in the U.S.—have had to endure. During a recent interview, the football player described an incident in which police entered his home, pointing guns at him and a teammate because they were moving boxes out.
Some critics have said that because of his status as a wealthy athlete, he hasn’t had to endure the kind of discrimination that others do. But those people are simply wrong. Aside from ignoring his own experience, they seem to forget the numerous incidents in which even the most famous people of color among us, such as actor Chris Rock and the athletes mentioned in an excellent Los Angeles Times piece, are treated as suspected criminals solely on the basis of their skin tone.
That’s the thing about racism: It rarely takes into account the actual targeted human being. Police brutality should never be accepted or justified; neither should any form of hate crime prompted by the victim’s appearance, beliefs or gender—or anything at all, really.
Perhaps even more egregious are the ways in which our entire society is structured to keep people of color in poverty or how it harshly punishes and disproportionately incarcerates some races over others for the same crimes.
Some responses to Kaepernick’s personal protest highlight the racism bubbling through this nation: accusations that he lacks patriotism, attempts to discredit his form of protest, unfriendly advice that the American-born athlete move to a more “suitable” country. Yet, it’s hard to imagine any place more suitable for a person who is using his body and his voice to fight for the rights of everyone, reminding us we were all created equal—the founding tenet of the United States, as imperfect as the country is.
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