Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers has a beef, a legitimate one, and he has chosen to take a stand, or in his case, a seat, to voice his displeasure. I, for one, applaud his courage to speak out in the wake of so many senseless, tragic, and unnecessary incidents in which unarmed men have been gunned down in the prime of their lives for nothing more than the color of their skin. Incidents that have not only ended those young men's lives and devastated those of grieving friends and family members, but also created an atmosphere of hate in which good men of all colors that serve their communities the right way have been gunned down merely because they wear the same uniform as the guilty.
In protest, Kaepernick has opted to sit during the playing of the National Anthem before NFL games and the response has been both volatile and divisive. Accusations of disloyalty and disrespect have been coming from one side of the debate while cries of racism come from the other. In all three cases, Kaepernick, his detractors, and his supporters, there is a degree of right...and wrong.
First, to Kaepernick's detractors. As Americans, standing and respecting the flag and the National Anthem is a right and a tradition, but isn’t it hypocritical to accuse a man of being unpatriotic when he is exercising one of THE greatest rights for which they stand, the freedom of speech? Isn’t it especially so when he is expressing that right in the face of so much hatred AND when many of Kaepernick’s detractors agree there is a need for change? No one deserves to die just because their clothes or the color of their skin are different.
Second, to Kaepernick's supporters, please don't fall victim to the very hate that Kaepernick is "sitting" against. Always take the high road to change. Racism and bigotry are the children of hate, and hate is what brought us to this precipice in the first place. As the great Dr. Martin Luther King once said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that," because, and I'm paraphrasing Dr King now, we must all learn to live together as brothers or we will perish as fools.
In a recent interview, former Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant weighed in on the debate:
Fair enough, but Kaepernick isn’t standing, he is sitting so, with all due respect to Durant and other professional athletes that support his position, I offer a suggestion to Colin Kaepernick:
Sir, I, like many many others, support your efforts on this issue 100%. I do not condemn the method you have chosen to voice your concern, but I want to offer you a better way to be heard.
Let me preface my suggestion with a little history:
The Declaration of Independence of The United States of America
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
(Here, in these words, lie the basic principles all Americans should aspire to live up to, and from them, came the following amendment)
1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The most powerful word from the Declaration of Independence in my opinion is "self-evident." To me it means not needing to be demonstrated or explained; it is obvious. Thus, we believe these truths are "obvious," that ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL and have the unalienable, meaning impossible to take away or give up, RIGHTS to LIFE, LIBERTY, and the PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.
The men you sit in protest against are in direct violation of the words highlighted above and should... NO!!... they MUST be opposed. A light must be shined on their deeds if there is any hope for change. I am merely suggesting a better way for you to accomplish that.
Your heart, Mr. Kaepernick, is clearly in the right place but your method of expressing your feelings has overshadowed your just cause and made it an afterthought. Rather than focusing on the issue you protest, the public eye has settled on the way you have chosen to speak out, and I seriously doubt that was your intention.
I feel certain your goal was to bring people dedicated to the principles this county was founded upon together to institute changes for the common good and that can still happen and I have an idea that may help you.
When Francis Scott Key wrote the poem that became our National Anthem, the Declaration of Independence wasn't much older than you are now; a few months past 38 years to be exact.
Key went on board a British war ship to negotiate the release of his friend Dr. William Beanes and others held prisoner there, but even after succeeding in negotiation, Key was told he could not leave until after the attack on Fort McHenry and the city of Baltimore.
The British were so confident in victory that Key was told the release would merely be a formality because another British triumph so quickly following the fall of Washington would surely force the American's to sue for peace and fall under British rule once again.
Key forwarded this information to the men he had come for, still chained below in the ship's hold. Remember, this was 1814, and Key and those men waiting to learn the outcome of the battle had no way of knowing the British were unable to bring their largest ships to bear because the harbor was too shallow. They had no way to know that the British land invasion would be stopped cold by 12,000 heavily fortified Americans east of Baltimore.
All they could do was anxiously wait as Key gave them what details he could through a long rainy night.
We all know the words to our National Anthem, but rarely do we stop and think about the story those words tell:
Oh, say can you see
By the dawns early light
What so proudly we hailed
At the twilights last gleaming?
From the hold of the British warship, “was the battle won or lost? is the flag we saw at nightfall still there?”
Who's broad striped and bright stars
Through the perilous fight
O'er the ramparts we watched
Were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare!
The bombs bursting in air!
Gave proof through the night
That our flag was still there
Not many know that the flag Key watched through the night was not the 30 by 42 ft garrison flag now on display at the Smithsonian Institution. The rain would have made the garrison flag weigh over 100 pounds and snapped the flagpole, so the smaller 17 by 25 ft "storm flag" was ordered flown in its stead. That was the flag Key desperately searched for in the rocket's red glare. Sadly, the smaller flag and the true hero of Key's poem was lost and no one knows what happened to it.
Oh, say does that star spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free
And the home of the brave?
What an incredibly inspiring way to re-phrase the questions the men still locked in chains begged an answer to in the morning light, "Do you see our flag? Do we still live in a land of freedom? do we still have a country?"
Which leads me to my idea.
On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, AL, when Rosa Parks was ordered off a bus for no other reason than being a black woman who dared sit on a “whites only” seat, THAT was the time to "sit" and be heard because it violated the "self-evident" truth that all men, and women are created equal, born with unalienable rights!
Now is NOT the time to sit. One should never sit in the face of oppression but rather, as Durant said, stand against it. Truly stand. The men you oppose are defying every tenet of our God given human rights when they take an innocent life and are thumbing their noses at the fundamental ideals of the Declaration of Independence AND the US Constitution. They are the ones that should be sitting, sitting behind bars... not you.
You should be standing against this abomination and standing for freedom, in fact, if you want to make a statement that draws attention to your cause AND inspires others to rally beside you, you should be standing taller than anyone else.
You have started the conversation, now, rather than sitting, grab a stool, a ladder, anything, and get your head higher than anyone's when the symbol of freedom is honored. Like Francis Scott Key standing on his tiptoes straining to see above the morning mist that freedom was still alive, you would be inspiring others to rise to the light rather than sitting in the bowels of darkness and hate. Don't let your cause get lost like the little "storm flag" in the debate about your method.
As I said before, and will say again, I support your right to protest, I just think your cause would be much better served if someone asking why was forced to look up to rather than down on you.
Stop the killing. Life matters too much.