By Ernie McCray
I keep thinking about Colin Kaepernick and how so many people have badmouthed him for sitting during the National Anthem rather than addressing his concerns in a “more appropriate way.”
And considering that (as I brought out in a prior piece about Kaepernick) his concern is about the oppression of black people and other people of color, those of us who are so designated really want to know how we can pursue our dream of “liberty and justice for all” in a way that suits the country’s fancy.
Because we’ve been trying like hell. For centuries. Non-stop. Besides working and raising our families with a little partying and making it to a couple of Chargers and Padres games in-between, it’s pretty much all we do.
Anyway, there’s a lot more for us all to do if feeling equal is to ever be realized by every American.
And if we’re serious about making it happen we have to acknowledge the proverbial “elephant in the room” that has always been a stumbling block to such goals: our very notions of patriotism, the narrow-minded view we have that waving and rallying loudly around “Old Glory” is the be-all and end-all when it comes to showing loyalty to one’s country.
Those trying to demonstrate their patriotism in other ways find themselves criticized mercilessly and looked at as non-patriotic.
But, in my opinion, Colin Kaepernick’s “dissent” on behalf of underserved Americans is, in the words of Howard Zinn, “the highest form of patriotism.”
At the least it’s certainly “a” form of patriotism, which leads to the point: rising for the national anthem and putting our hands over our hearts are just some of the ways that we can honor our country, ways that often, as history has proven, get in the way of our working together to make our country better.
I mean sometimes we get so wrapped up in the flag that we can’t see straight. We can’t reason. We become unwilling to be informed about matters like race relations which has, on many occasions, caused us to completely bypass opportunities to create a society wherein people are sincerely dedicated to making themselves more tolerant and accepting of each other.
It appears that our overly emotional fascination with our nation’s symbols has made us almost completely barren of the ability to think critically, so easily able to act ridiculously, like setting fire to a quarterback’s jersey; saying that he offended the military; occasionally seeking legislation that would make desecrating the flag a crime when it’s a pure form of “free” speech, with the emphasis on “free.”
But it’s okay to blow a black boy away because he seems beastly. That’s the kind of thing Kaepernick wants us to look into and bring an end to. He’s fed up with something we all should “have it up to here!” with. He wants to see an end to police brutality but, because he didn’t go about it in “a more appropriate way,” the Santa Clara police recently threatened to stop security for the San Francisco 49’ers games. That’s a flatout crying shame. So un-American.
Juxtapose that with the Ohio police who volunteered without complaint to protect a convicted rapist, Brock Turner, a white young man, a former student and “star swimmer” (an athlete like Kaepernick) of Stanford University, and you see the way the game is played. It’s in our face. We should all be enraged.
But the struggle moves ahead in the last of the teen years of the 21st Century, still with no feedback to communities of color as to how we can keep our American Dreams for a better life alive in some way that’s acceptable to people who want to define patriotism for everybody.
How can we get beyond being “offended” by Colin Kaepernick and vilifying him and genuinely begin to address his concern: the oppression of black people and other people of color?
How can we make him eventually feel that he can stand with pride when, before his games begin, they strike up the band and play our national anthem?
What brand of patriotism could make that happen? The answer has to lie in each of us.