Racism, Patriotism, Kaepernick and #LeaveAmerica

 

ABC News
ABC News

By now I’m sure you have heard about the controversy concerning San Francisco 49rs quarterback Colin Kaepernick even if you don’t pay attention to sports. It’s really caused quite a stir on the internet. If you don’t know already, the hubbub is due to the fact that he is refusing to stand during the National Anthem in a protest to the violence and racism that is affecting parts of the black community here in the United States. Many people have voiced their opinion on this on both sides and now so am I, while knowing that It may fall on the deaf ears of ignorance or just over saturation.

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Why is it, that a large portion of the people who have a problem with what he did and have an issue with those who support his right to do it automatically jump to the conclusion of, “well if you don’t like it then move out of the country.” According to his constitutional rights, he didn’t break any laws and in fact imparted one of the most important rights we have as Americans. Let’s not forget freedom of speech and expression comes before the supposed right to bear arms (I say supposed because there is some new evidence that suggests the founders didn’t actually mean individual gun ownership).

Somehow though a large portion of Americans are apparently so butthurt that he had the audacity to use himself to affect, or hopefully affect positive social change that they think he should leave. They also think anyone who agrees with him should leave. Apparently, in the eyes of many this attempt for real social change and needed change was some sort of perceived assault on the military and a slap in the face of their narrow view of our proud history and tradition of the United States.

But it wasn’t and it wasn’t meant that way.

 

 

I was brought up in a very white America, I wasn’t introduced into a real racially or diverse world until later in life after highschool. I don’t fault my parents for that; it was just where we lived and the schools I went to. It was the part of society that I grew up in that was primarily white and with it, as I learned later had white privilege. For years though I knew nothing but a white-centric pseudo-religious view of the world. I wasn’t aware what people of other races and nationalities had to deal with in their everyday life. I wasn’t aware of how many were persecuted by the religion that I grew up with for a while before I “wised up.” As I got older and went out into the world I saw things, people and situations that I had only heard about and even some that were totally new. It was a shock but my eyes were opened for the better.

As time went on because my eyes were opened and it gave me the ability to empathize with the other side of America, the side I didn’t grow up knowing and the side I didn’t understand. At some point, I had to make some choices. Was I going to ignore the issues and injustices that I saw in the adult world or stick my head in the sand like so many white people have done for years because it was relatively safe and familiar? Was I going to just bask in the glory of my whiteness and put all the blame on other races while ignoring the failures of my own? Was I just going to sit by and ignore the problems of inequality for the LGBT community and cling to some insane religious doctrine that treats them like animals and sub-humans?

I still haven’t gotten it perfect and have my moments of odd closed mindedness but I am much farther along than many I’ve known and more than I was before in life. I remember growing up when it was normal to say and hear the word Fag and use it as a derogatory term whether it was towards a gay person or not; I’ll even admit to saying it back in the day. Growing up  I remember hearing people use the words nigger and coon all the time and it never phased me and the same for the words retard, chink and spic etc etc. Now, as an enlightened and educated adult, all of these words make me cringe. All of these words reek of hate, bigotry, and ignorance.

If you didn’t know, Colin Kaepernick is half white. He didn’t know his biological father who is black and his biological mother, who is white gave him up for adoption soon after he was born. He was raised as a baby by a white family with white siblings in Wisconsin which let’s face it…is very white. Only 6% of the whole population of Wisconsin is black versus the 82% that is white. He is 29 years old and about the same age, I was when I made my own choice on what glasses I was using to view the world and myself and what was right and acceptable and not.

In an interview with Us Weekly, he talked about his difficulties growing up. “I never felt that I was supposed to be white. Or black, either. My parents just wanted to let me be who I needed to be,” he told the magazine. Many people have no idea what that situation is like, not knowing where you belong and having something to feel connected with. Feeling out of place because you don’t look like the others around you. So it’s really not surprising that Colin, after growing and maturing connected with a part of his racial background that he really hadn’t been able to in Wisconsin. It then makes sense that after paying attention to that half of his racial heritage that his eyes were opened to the problems and issues in the black communities in our nation. People have berated his choice for sitting during the national anthem while, among other things, having a multi-million dollar NFL contract.

What most people don’t realize, or want to is how much he gives back to the community in money, time and charities. Most people don’t realize how much time he spends with the black youth of America in order to be a positive role model for those who have none. This is the side of Mr. Kapernick that white people don’t want to acknowledge because they would lose half their argument against him. At some point, he will not be playing football anymore for whatever reason. So, wouldn’t it make sense to use what fame he has now to do some good, or at least try before people forget who he is and his voice is mixed with the millions that go unheard? We should all be so lucky to have that opportunity. People love talking about the baseball legend Jackie Robinson who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. But they often don’t mention (because most don’t realize)  is that he arguably did as much for the civil rights movement as MLK did over a decade later and inspired a lot of Kings work. What Kaepernick is doing is tepid compared to what the Robinson did. He was loud and vocal and wasn’t afraid to use his voice and fame for social  justice and change. Somehow, for some insane reason, a very vocal part of white America is appalled by what Kaepernick and now many others are doing.

The issues he is bringing up, or trying to bring to light are issues that have existed for decades. The civil rights movement in the 1960’s was the start of change but not the end of it. He wasn’t taking to the streets and burning things like the Black Lives Matter Movement often does but rather bringing attention to the same issues but in a peaceful and LEGAL way. Let’s face it, the baby boomers, in all their self-perceived greatness did nothing to grow and improve race equality in America that their parents fought for and changed. They let things just exist instead of making them better and improving them. Yes, there are a lot of issues, bad ones within parts of the black population itself and I won’t ignore or deny that because you can’t. But that is something they need to come together and work on. However, many of those issues exist because of how marginalized they have been by the rest of America, white America and that is something that most white Americans need to finally accept. Yes, people make choices to do bad things but cause also leads to effect and whether you want to admit it or not modern white people are the cause of some of it.

A lot of how white America is reacting now with what Kaepernick did is the only thing they know how to do when a black man or half black man, in this case, stands up for a large part of our country who are being abused and marginalized. They scream the baton of patriotism and “how dare he disrespect the greatness of the American flag” which many are so ill educated that they honestly still think Betsey Ross made it. But who can blame them since the last real education they had was 45 to 55 years ago at a time when the history of America they were taught was either largely glossed over or not even close to being accurate. Hell, they were still taught that Washington cut down a damn cherry tree and apparently invented freedom.  However, there is no excuse for maintaining ignorance when enlightenment and re-education is available. They bring up the long and proud history of our military and somehow equate what Kaepernick did and is doing as an attack on the heritage of our military and specifically the veterans. This is all bullshit though because even MANY veterans have come out to support him #VeteransForKaepernick.

They bring these things up because their white-centric ideals and lifestyle will not allow them to even logically consider the real racial issues in this country. Because by doing so would mean they would have to admit their personal and generational shortcomings. It’s the very same racial divide that the baby boomers themselves are a large cause of. The Millennials understand about racial inequality, see and acknowledge the issues and want change and their close working and professional friendships are multi-ethnic. Whereas the closest thing many baby boomers (usually in the middle of the country) get to mixing with the races is when they go to a Chinese buffet or Mexican restaurant and in doing so believe they are being “Cultural” or perhaps talking that one black man or woman they work with. Millennials don’t run in fear at the site of a black man walking down the street like their parents did. Gen X-ers like me are kind of split. The ones on the younger side of the line see the same issues as the Millennials while many of the older ones get caught up in subtle closet racism and bigotry that their parents have and often passed down. “I’ve had black friends” they might say. That’s cool but did you every take the time to see life from their eyes or just the parts that fit in your white mold of the world and don’t make you feel awkward? If black people don’t act like the Cosbys or the family in Family Matters white people don’t know what to do half the time and as a  white male, I know that for a fact.

Many of the people who have an issue with what Kaepernick did either do not know or are too ignorant to acknowledge the racist undertones of the very song he is peacefully refusing to stand for. Maybe it’s because they don’t know the whole song which isn’t an excuse. This is the same generation who burned American flags during Vietnam in protest under the same legal reasoning that backs up Colin Kaepernick’s ability to peacefully sit down during the National Anthem. This is the same generation that attacked, ignored and called soldiers returning from Vietnam baby killers. It is the same generation who has made sure that veterans have to fight and scrape for every dwindling benefit they get because they don’t want to pay more taxes so those benefits have been cut to embarrassing levels. It is the same generation who burned their draft cards and dodged Vietnam. And it is the same generation who is entirely at fault for the mortgage lending crisis, great recession and the fall of the global market. Yet these same people call this the greatest country on earth. Have you seen the hypocrisy here yet? What gives them the right to question Kaepernick’s patriotism and loyalty to America when many people of a certain generation or generations have done far worse and only fake their patriotism and bring it out on the 4th of July like a decoration.

You say how dare you Colin Kaepernick.

I say, how dare you. You “patriots” who berate him and attack him online.

While you let this country fall apart, split apart and march into social and economic disorder you really have the nerve to question a man standing up for a real issue in America in a very American way. Your solution, though, for the people like Kapernick, me and others who support his rights and believe in a greater America than what we have known where equality and equal rights matter most is to suggest that we leave. Why is it that anytime an American has the guts to question the perceived greatness of our country and the status quo we are told to just leave? You don’t care about racial equality but god damn the government better not take away your guns right?  If you people who say that had your way, then every woman who wanted to vote prior to 1920 should have just left instead of demanding and fighting for change. If you had your way blacks would still have their own drinking fountains and sit in the back of the bus. If people like you had your way there would be no such thing as a minimum wage, child labor laws, scientific advancement, affordable higher education, women could still be discriminated based on sex,  whites could be chosen over blacks for jobs just because they are white, and adults and kids with physical and mental disabilities would not be considered a part of society and be forced into asylums again.

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Patriotism doesn’t start and end with the firing of a gun in war or a tour of duty. It’s not defined by just one group’s radical view of what’s right and wrong. Patriotism in the USA means defending the constitutional rights of EVERYONE not just certain colors, religions, and those from certain economic areas. What Kaepernick did is the very definition of patriotism and freedom and those who have an issue with what he did are the exact opposite of patriots no matter what they try and tell themselves while they watch Fox News, wet themselves in glee over every word Shawn Hannity says or that bimbo from the Blaze. At least he had the guts to stand up for what’s right. At least he didn’t hide his head in the sand like so many others “Americans” do when issues about racial inequality are brought up. If Payton Manning or Tom Brady did the same thing would most of you be complaining? Probably not.

I can give you so called “Patriots” an entire list of verifiable reasons why the USA isn’t the greatest country on earth which range from economics to education and whole litany of things in-between with the lack of racial equality being one of them. But I know that you don’t care about truth. I know that you don’t care about facts. You only care your extremely limited perception of reality. So don’t give me that already worn out line about Kaepernick stepping on the great patriots of our country and history by doing the right thing. You’re doing far worse than he is by ignoring the very real issues and shortcomings the USA has while pretending everything is okay. If that’s the legacy you want to pass on to your kids or grand-kids then that’s your mistake.

 

Be honest white America. What really bothers you is that black people still want equality. What bothers you is that they won’t just fall in line and shut up. What bothers you is that a black man stood up for what’s right in a completely nonviolent way just like you have been demanding and you still don’t like it. So now you are questioning his patriotism, threatening him and telling him to leave all because he’s standing up for something you won’t.

If you want to stand for the National Anthem, be ignorant and pretend everything is okay and nothing is wrong in America then fine, after all, that’s what most of you have been doing for your whole lives.

 

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Photo by Stanley Forman/Boston Herald American 1976 “The Soiling of Old Glory” was taken on April 5, 1976, during the Boston busing desegregation protests.

“The demonstrations that are going on at this moment speak I think to what it is we aspire to be as a democracy that provides fairness and equal opportunity and equality to all of the people that believe in the best values of the flag.” Ted Landsmark in 2016 with NPR

 

 

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