By Denzel McCampbell
After news hit that Colin Kaepernick sat during the anthem before a preseason game, many people, including those in media, immediately focused on whether Kaepernick disrespected active military members and veterans. Many veterans stood up for Kaepernick and created the hashtag, #VeteransForKaepernick, which quickly became a trending topic online. That was a positive sight to see, for sure.
But the problems that Kaepernick was protesting have nothing to do with veterans and to allow that narrative to continue does a disservice to the movement for racial equity and justice for all.
Kaepernick said as much himself after his action: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color… There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
What Kaepernick (and others) are speaking to is the way this country allows and routinely supports black folks being marginalized, oppressed, hurt, and killed by agents of the state.
There’s a history of right-wing talking heads and those who reject equity and treating everyone with respect commandeering conversations on race, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, religion, and national origin to shift it to a place to make the marginalized group seem detrimental to the freedom for everyone. In Detroit, we see it happen when the 1967 rebellion is brought up. Instead of the conversation being about racist housing laws, a racist police force, and white residents refusing to live around black folks, which resulted in white flight and the divestment of resources in Detroit, the conversation routinely starts with, “that’s when they destroyed their city.”
We cannot let the struggle toward equity for all people in this country be upended and taken over by those who seek more oppression. They don’t want to have a true conversation about what needs to change in the United States. They don’t want to talk about reparations, police brutality, broken windows policing, militarization of police, and other areas key to the struggle for racial equity. But we know that when we talk about what’s really happening, the majority will be on our side.
Alas, if you still find yourself still wanting to engage in a conversation about Kaepernick and how he’s disrespecting the national anthem – take a second to think about why someone would appreciate a song that celebrates the death of their potential ancestors seeking freedom from the very country that’s supposed to be the land of the free.