Portland observer. (Portland, Or.) 1970-current, September 21, 2016, Page Page 7, Image 7

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    September 21, 2016
Page 7
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In Defense of Colin Kaepernick’s ‘Stand’
A righteous
pursuit for
d r . r oN d aNiels
The uproar contin-
ues over San Francis-
co 49ner quarterback
Colin Kaepernick’s
decision to sit-down, rather than
stand, during the playing of the
National Anthem. Kaepernick
said his decision was intended to
protest the continued injustices
being inflicted on black people,
including police brutality and
killings. Though the negative
tide has turned somewhat, his
protest was initially met with a
torrent of criticism from vari-
ous quarters. He was called ev-
erything but a child of God for
refusing to “honor America” and
our men and women in the armed
forces. The “love it or leave it”
sentiment was very strong.
Frankly, I was infuriated by
these reactions. It made my
blood boil. I was already upset
and had spoken about the fact
that social media exploded with
criticism of African American
gymnast Gabby Douglas when
she inadvertently forgot to put
her hand over her heart when
the National Anthem was played
during the medal ceremony at
the Olympic Games in Rio.
There is no law which states
that anyone must stand during
the playing of the Nation-
al Anthem or the Pledge of
Alliance to the Flag. It is
a strongly held “custom”
and societal expectation
that one stand, but no law
which compels it. On the
contrary, Kaepernick has
a constitutional right to express
his views through protest. Free-
dom of speech is one of the most
important cornerstones of this
imperfect union. It is one of the
avenues through which change
can be galvanized. And Kaeper-
nick has courageously chosen to
exercise his First Amendment
Right to point out longstanding,
persistent injustices, “intolerable
acts” that are being heaped upon
African Americans who are sup-
posed to be full citizens of this
Most importantly, generations
of African Americans have paid
the price for Kaepernick and
any black person to sit during
the playing of a flawed anthem
replete with hypocrisy. Every
time I hear the words “that our
flag was still there” in the An-
them, I’m filled with anger and
outrage. When the War of 1812
was fought, some 3.5 million
Africans were still enslaved and
the 500,000 or so “free” blacks
could not vote and were subject
to racial discrimination and vi-
olence. “Our flag?” We didn’t
have a flag. For black folks,
singing that line and most of the
Anthem is ludicrous!
That notwithstanding, blacks
have spilled blood to protect
and defend America even when
America refused to protect and
defend black people. From Cris-
pus Attucks, who died in the
initial skirmish of the Ameri-
can Revolution, to the hundreds
of “freedmen” whom George
Washington reluctantly armed
to fight in the battles of Bunkers
Hill and Breed Hill, to the thou-
sands who took up arms to fight
for our own freedom in the Civil
War, black people have fought,
bled and died aspiring to be free
in a nation which repeatedly re-
warded our military service with
a failure to protect and defend us
as citizens. We have been among
America’s most patient patriots.
Thousands of black troops
went off to fight Kaiser Wilhelm
during the First World War to
save democracy, only to return
to the U.S. to be gunned down in
the streets in their military uni-
forms in the “bloody red sum-
mer of 1919.” We fought against
Hitler and Tojo in the Second
World War to once again return
to an America where we were
not free. Soldiers fresh off the
battlefields faced humiliation,
intimidation, lynching/murders
and police violence in the segre-
gated South and “dark ghettos”
in the North. Indeed, the hypoc-
risy of fighting for freedom and
democracy abroad while being
denied “freedom and justice for
all” at home helped to fuel the
civil rights, human rights, black
power and nationalists/pan Afri-
canists movements which have
painstakingly pushed a reluctant
nation toward a more perfect
union. Up through the Korean
Conflict, Vietnam, Iraq and Af-
ghanistan, black soldiers have
bled and died in every America
We have paid the price for
Kaepernick to stand or sit, kneel,
recognize or ignore a flawed an-
them and pledge, particularly
as his protest continues to illu-
minate the killing of black men
and women by the police in the
streets of this country.
Africans in America and peo-
ple of conscience and goodwill
should resolve to stand with and
defend him in his righteous pur-
suit to end the oppression and
injustice of Africans in America.
No struggle, no progress!
Dr. Ron Daniels is president
of the Institute of the Black
World 21st Century and distin-
guished lecturer at York College
City University of New York.
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