By: Robert Thomas
Though protest may not always be favored, there is nothing more American, or patriotic, than exposing yourself to the risks that come with fighting for your rights.
With Nike’s recent ad featuring the controversial NFL football player, Colin Kaepernick, the issue of his kneeling in protest during the national anthem has been propelled into the spotlight once again.
Challenging Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Rep. Beto O’Rourke recently exposed this perspective in a viral video posted on Twitter by NowThis News.
O’Rourke iterates that not only were the freedoms we enjoy as Americans purchased by those in uniform, but also by those who knowingly risked life and limb in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Those who died were beaten within an inch of their lives, punched and spat upon for the crime of trying to be a man or woman in this country and fought to secure better rights for fellow Americans.
Today, these players peacefully and nonviolently take a knee at football games to point out that black men, black teenagers and black children are being killed at an alarming level, often by members of law enforcement without accountability or justice.
“Non-violently, peacefully, while the eyes of this country are watching these games, they take a knee to bring our attention and our focus to this problem to ensure that we fix it,” O’Rourke said. “I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up, or take a knee, for your rights, anytime, anywhere or any place.”
Protest by its own nature is meant to be controversial and force as many people as possible to consider an issue that they otherwise would have ignored. Considering the massive national attention and controversy surrounding the protests, I would say the protests have been largely successful in their purpose.
It is also worth noting that while Kaepernick originally sat during the anthem, a compromise was made after speaking to a veteran and asserting his desire for change and an unwillingness to stand for the flag of a country that oppressed black people and people of color. According to NPR, U.S. Army special forces veteran Nate Boyer advised Kaepernick to instead take a knee during the anthem as a sign of respect.
Kaepernick has also received support from numerous military veterans in his protest, and several even published an open letter of support in Medium.
“Far from disrespecting our troops, there is no finer form of appreciation for our sacrifice than for Americans to enthusiastically exercise their freedom of speech,” the letter states.
The letter also references an analysis by the Washington Post, that found that black people in America are two and a half times more likely to be shot and killed by police than white Americans. According to The Undefeated, U.S. Army veteran Richard Allen Smith, who was a signer to the letter, said politicians and corporations often use the military and its servicemen and women as a prop to cloak themselves in credibility.
We must transform the attitude surrounding those who peacefully fight to better the nation. Those who do, do so out of a deep patriotic devotion to the nation and its peoples, and an understanding of its great potential — not out of a disrespect for it.