Kaepernick's Stand

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has chosen to abstain from standing during the national anthem, a decision that has been met with predictable support and just as predictable ire. Many of Kaepernick's thoughts were laid out in an 18 minute session Sunday afternoon (after this segment aired) and are worth your time because they are the point of this whole thing. To have an opinion on his stance without reading them is to be willfully ignorant. If you are mad now, you can still be mad after, but at least know what you're mad about. He has done his homework and speaks to a lot of the criticisms he has received for taking this stand, including his thoughts on the troops and his own success.

The latter is an interesting criticism that clearly lacks any critical thought. Kaepernick (who is mixed and was adopted by white parents at a young age) isn't saying that being black prevents everybody from achieving what they desire in life. He does say it has prevented many and that "prevention" has taken many different forms from institutionalized racism to police brutality ending lives before they can really begin. The lack of critical thought is why progress seems to have halted on racial issues in this country. Both "sides" have dug in their heels and refuse to consider they could be wrong.

What America stands for and the reality of our history are two very different things and that disconnect is where the sides are drawn. There are some people who refuse to accept that the Star Spangled Banner was, in full, written as an endorsement of slavery by a man who did not think all men were created equal. This is well documented. These are not opinions, they are historical fact.

That does not mean that the anthem and the flag can't stand for what we think of now as liberty and justice for all, but to try and deny that history is the same as denying 2+2=4 and that Barack Obama is the President. You might not want them to be true (I don't know...you might hate math) but they inarguably are. That disconnect, as much as anything else, is the roadblock that is halting progress moving forward.

The other point to be made that is not in the 11 minutes of audio below is the notion that Kaepernick isn't "doing something" by speaking up. I'm not sure what people want him to do. Make million dollar donations to charity? Drop everything and go fight in the military? One of those things doesn't even have any place in this issue. That would be the second one.

Kaepernick has freedom of speech, expression and the right to protest because people have repeatedly fought for those freedoms over the course of a few hundred years. He's simply using them. His goal is to better the lives of people other than himself, but because he did it in a way that made people confront truths that they wish were fallacies, he is dismissed as "non-patriotic" and "disrespecting the troops." As Kaepernick explained in his media session, he's seen troops come back and deal with problems of racial profiling as well as the many other problems many of our veterans deal with.

As for donating money to charity, I'm sure he has (as in I've looked it up and his golf tournament has raised almost $1 million for children in the last three years on top of whatever else he does) and will continue to do so. He might also give his time. What we do know is he's giving us an education. He's making people talk. He's keeping these issues (that are very real) in the forefront and spoke in a way that provided context to his actions. 

Could he write his congressman? Sure, but isn't this getting more attention? Perhaps now his congressman will write him. He isn't doing nothing and this isn't about "him" in the literal sense. It's about something larger than him, and in most cases the collective "we" see that as admirable.

With those things in mind, here is what I said on Sunday morning. Below are some links I think are worth reading.

Additional Links:

Twitter user @absurdistwords put together an incredible history and context of the anthem at sporting events: https://storify.com/ArmstrongKatie/absurdistwords

ESPN's Bomani Jones on MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc-news/watch/nfl-qb-sparks-controversy-over-sit-out-753150019968

Domonique Foxworth cuts to the core of what I talked about above in his piece for The Undefeated: http://theundefeated.com/features/kaepernicks-protest-is-as-american-as-that-flag/

Robert Klemko writes in the MMQB about Kaepernick's upbringing (he was adopted as an infant by white parents) and how it has shaped his worldview: http://mmqb.si.com/mmqb/2016/08/27/colin-kaepernick-national-anthem-san-francisco-49ers-nfl