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The National Anthem.

Star-Spangled Banner.

I’ve always stood at attention, hand over heart. It never crossed my mind NOT to.

Until August 26, 2016.

Colin Kaepernick.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

{Source}

Hm. Tell me more, Colin.

“I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me, this is something that has to change. When there’s significant change and I feel that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”

“This stand wasn’t for me. This is because I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice, people that don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard, and effect change. So I’m in the position where I can do that and I’m going to do that for people that can’t.”

“It’s something that can unify this team. It’s something that can unify this country. If we have these real conversations that are uncomfortable for a lot of people. If we have these conversations, there’s a better understanding of where both sides are coming from.”

“I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. That’s not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody. That’s something that’s not happening. I’ve seen videos, I’ve seen circumstances where men and women that have been in the military have come back and been treated unjustly by the country they fought have for, and have been murdered by the country they fought for, on our land. That’s not right.”

Yes.

While I had, and have, a sense of pride and am somewhat in awe of the stand Colin is taking, it was, as usual, met with extreme disappointment in the response. People, SOMEHOW, made this about the military and said Colin Kaepernick was disrespecting veterans blah blah blah.

(By the way, Colin sat in protest on the previous preseason games. It’s just that nobody noticed until this one.)

Before I go on, let me suggest a few things.

  1. Talk to a few veterans, black, brown, AND white, who are supporting Colin Kaepernick. Some who are saying that while THEY choose to stand, they respect and fight for a country where others can choose not to.
  2. Take a look at how some veterans of color feel about America and their service.
  3. Understand that there are those who were in the military and chose to get out because of the complete disrespect and lack of understanding they feel from the country they pledged to put their life on the line for.
  4. Take a look at the state of veterans affairs in this country. Look at mental health statistics. Look at suicide rates. Look at homelessness. DISRESPECT? Okay.

But above all of that, please see this for what it is. Here is a man of color who has EXPLICITLY told the nation why he is protesting, and he is being ignored.

Colin: I’m protesting because I’m taking a stand against the oppression of people of color in this country.

Some folks: No no no. You can’t protest that way.

Other folks: No no no. You SAY you are protesting oppression, but it’s REALLY because you hate the military and veterans, and that makes you a bad American.

Still more folks: If you don’t like America, leave.

And still, more folks: You can’t even protest because you aren’t even fully black AND you were raised by a white family! LOL. Therefore, you don’t have the right to speak up about oppression.

The lengths some people have gone to in their responses in order to COMPLETELY IGNORE what Colin Kaepernick said about HIS OWN PROTEST is mind-boggling.

I, for one, am grateful for Colin. I’m grateful that he put himself out there for ridicule and cruelty for the cause. But more than that, I am grateful because it facilitated me digging a little deeper. One day, I saw someone ask if people had ever taken a look at the third verse of The National Anthem.

What?

There’s a third verse?

Yes. There is.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

There has been speculation that this verse celebrates the death of black slaves. A speculation that I don’t think is too far off. I won’t go too deep into history, here, but here’s something to get you started:

There are historians (notably Robin Blackburn, author of The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, 1776-1848, and Alan Taylor, author of “American Blacks in the War of 1812”), who have indeed read the stanza as glorying in the Americans’ defeat of the Corps of Colonial Marines, one of two units of black slaves recruited between 1808 and 1816 to fight for the British on the promise of gaining their freedom. Like so many of his compatriots, Francis Scott Key, the wealthy American lawyer who wrote “The Star Spangled Banner” in the wake of the Battle of Fort McHenry on 14 September 1814, was a slaveholder who believedblacks to be “a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.” It goes without saying that Key did not have the enslaved black population of America in mind when he penned the words “land of the free.” It would be logical to assume, as well, that he might have harbored a special resentment toward African Americans who fought against the United States on behalf of the King.

This is the song, written by this particular songwriter, that THE NATION stands and sings with pride. It is seen as disrespectful not to.

Let that sink in.

I do not stand in judgment of those who decide to continue to stand and place their hands over their hearts for The National Anthem. However, I have a DEEP respect for those who choose to protest. Further, I have a loathing for those who pass judgment on people who choose to protest. Your position should be similar to Cornel West.

That is it. Stand if you so desire, but DO NOT criticize others in their form of protest. I understand there are people who stand in honor of family members, friends, or for whatever reason. Understand that there are reasons, JUST AS LEGITIMATE, why people are choosing not to.

Also, this has proven that there is NO form of protest by people of color that will be deemed “acceptable” by the oppressor. Colin simply sat down. Silent. Bothering no one. And look.

The message is simple.

Stop killing us.

Stop oppressing us.

The justice system is f***ed.

See us.

Hear us.

Feel us.

DO SOMETHING.

If that is a message you disagree with, then YOU are the one who needs to get out of America.

We’re here.

We’re staying.

And we’re no longer sitting by silently going with the flow. We deserve more. Either face the issues and let’s work together, or you are going to have a bigger problem on your hands.

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