Students decked out in purple and white rose to stand for the a capella class’s rendition of the national anthem at this year’s homecoming rally. However, across the four stands were gaps in the sea of heads, missing from the uniform line as though they’d been struck down in a game of whack-a-mole. These students had not risen for the anthem, instead choosing to remain seated in a silent but powerful protest, one which was brought into fashion by the 49er’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
These students beg the question of whether this action properly reflects the idea behind it, and as much as I support Kaepernick’s belief that police brutality and racial injustice needs to be stopped, his refusal to stand for the national anthem is not aiding it.
There are many people who argue that Kaepernick is bringing attention to his cause by creating discussions over his actions. It is true that he is creating discussions. I have debated Kaepernick’s justification in kneeling with my father, my friend, my friend’s mother and my Uber driver. However, not once in my debate with any of these people did we address racial injustice or inequality. The argument was over Kaepernick’s justification. Kaepernick’s movement is creating a widespread argument over his justification in sitting rather than how the issue of racial injustice could be addressed.
Many people have made the valid point that Kaepernick is sitting for the national anthem because it has the connotation of a free and equal land, which is something that doesn’t ring true for many people This is true, there have been numerous acts of violence and discrimination limiting equality and freedom for many. However, as horrible as this issue has become over the past couple years, sitting for the national anthem is not the way to fix it.
As defined by the Oxford Dictionary, a national anthem is “a solemn patriotic song officially adopted by a country as an expression of national identity.” The national anthem is a symbol of our country. When any country stands for or sings their national anthem, they are, as the above definition states, expressing their identity as an American. No matter what the connotation or meaning of the anthem, I believe that sitting down for the expression of our unity as a country is essentially denouncing what it means to be American. Whether they mean to or not, when people sit down for the national anthem they are saying we should forget all of the progress we’ve made and all the people who have worked hard to make America a better place.
Lastly, Kaepernick’s movement does not provide a solution, or a way the public can work towards change. The trademark for Kaepernick’s protest, kneeling for the national anthem, doesn’t offer any way to move forward up front. I had to dig through article after article to find out whether Kaepernick was supporting any charities or doing anything else to support change. It turns out that after Kaepernick began his movement, he donated one million dollars to “charities that help communities in need to further support the causes he believes in”, according to CBS News. This is a wonderful move on Kaepernick’s part and is definitely a step in the right direction, but I had to do more than a little bit of searching to find this out, and still haven’t been able to find the specific charities he is supporting. Supporting charities and actively doing something to create change is what should have been at the forefront of Kaepernick’s movement, rather than a symbolic move calling out the issues without actually saying how we can address them.
I realize that staging a protest with a plan for change is not always realistic or achievable, but in the case of Kaepernick I believe it is. He is in a standing economically and socially to create a movement with some way for the public to help, and could have easily done so with a movement like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, in which people dumped ice on their heads to support, donate, and bring awareness to a cause. This method of raising awareness creates a way for people to help, in addition to raising awareness without calling anybody out.
In a question and answer session with Bay Area reporters, Kaepernick stated that he is working on other forms of protest, which he will talk about when he has them figured out. If these other plans for protest are done peacefully, without accidentally or purposefully discrediting all of America, and with some sort of idea for how we can work towards change, then I will most definitely be in support of them. However, because Kaepernick’s current movement brings more attention to him than his cause, and because his movement does not immediately offer a way to contribute to change, I will continue to stand for the national anthem. Will you?