kaepernick vs. america
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, perceived this country as a child, but now that I am grown this country has revealed itself to me.
What is a watcher on the wall who remains silent in the midst of oncoming invasion? What is the man, who professes love for his brother, yet refuses to offer correction when he wanders off the path of the righteous? What is the teacher, a guardian at the gates of learning, who aims to improve the fortunes of students, yet fails to nurture their intellectual curiosity? To love is to provide correction, to not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoice with the truth (1 Cor. 13:6)
Throughout the annals of history, “yes-men” have been the rot in the foundation leading to the downfall of many an institution and empire. Just as with parenting, blind adoration is the precursor to transgression, resulting in the festering of disease laden boils on the skin destined to explode in an avalanche of rank immorality. To paraphrase James Baldwin, love of one’s country necessitates the ability to critique, for the purpose of elevation of the land one calls home. If John F. Kennedy implored us to ask ourselves what we could for our great country, what better sacrifice can be placed at the feet of this nation, than ensuring it reaches the ideals it was supposedly built upon?
willful ignorance at the next exit
Diversionary tactics, the ally of war generals and those faced with the encroaching reality of logic found wanting. The embodiment of the schoolyard ploy of, “look over there!” while running briskly in another direction away from your playground colleague. Such is the manner of those, who when presented with the Colin Kaepernick sit down during the national anthem, looked for any excuse to not deal with the actual issue at hand. Whether it is the socks he wore that depicted cops as pigs, the Fidel Castro t-shirt at a press conference, or even the fact that he has not played well and should be instead focusing on regaining his top flight form, these exit ramps abound. No one is perfect, and to attempt to derail Kaepernick’s message due to questionable actions on his part is naïve at the most banal level and sinister at its most complex. Exit ramps are by nature disingenuous, and ring hollow as Trojan horses concealing the stark reality of their user’s true feelings: they don’t care about black bodies.
the retro-fitting of american ideals
America is the home of the free, for whom exactly? Taking the logical road that Kaepernick laid out, forces one to come to grips with the America so fiercely defended. If one views the flag as a symbol for freedom, then all the more reason to support Kaepernick and his right to protest conditions in this country. If one views the flag idealistically, as a representation of all that is good in America, then again supporting Kaepernick’s protest is the logical step as you turn withering eye upon the woeful conditions that sully this emblem you hold dear. Even if one would choose disbelief in the face of such reasoning, it is impossible to buy into the purity of America when actually taking the time to look at the historical context of this nation.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”
- This was applicable to literally, only men, and white men at that who were property owners
- This country, if we are being honest did not truly become a democratic nation till 1965 and the Voting Rights Act, which removed a number of barriers purposefully established to restrict voting by blacks
- The 3/5ths Compromise, which worked to give the south a stronger hold on congress by counting slaves, but not as if they were part of the free folk
From the War on Drugs (read: war on black people), to district redlining, to a host of other injustices occurring from the very genesis of this country, it has been made painfully clear that the ideals held so dear by some do not apply to all. What we have instead is a reconstructing of American ideals in order to fit them to a people they was never intended to represent or protect. American is not unique, America has not fallen short because from the beginning it never meant for us to be equals in the first place. This so-called great experiment we call America, for all intents and purposes has been merely business as usual on a different side of the Atlantic. Therefore, when Colin Kaepernick’s anthem protest is dismissed because it is deemed disrespectful to America, the flag, and her ideals, the question you must ask is, what America are they referring to?
a proxy for what many of us are not
If the anthem and the America with which is it has been associated with, are not supposed to have the same idealistic meaning for black Americans as it does for white, what then raises the ire of those who stand against Kaepernick? It would raise ire if Colin Kaepernick’s protest was seen as something far more personal, if the oppression spoke out against was seen as an attack not on America and its ideals, but of whiteness itself. The flag and anthem as a proxy for whiteness would answer the question as to why there are those who spit in the face of sound reasoning to cling to the sullied trappings of patriotism. It’s why Muslims in this country are persecuted for being un-American, why opponents of Barack Obama could even dream to bring up the question of his origins, and why critique of America by people of color is swiftly met with inept cries of “go back to your country!”
It has been almost two weeks since news of Colin Kaepernick sitting in protest during the national anthem, came to the forefront of the public eye. Almost 14 days of contempt filled diatribes, righteous indignation, and willful ignorance. Almost half a month of questioning whether Kaepernick, and those who stand by him, love their country and are being respectful of America and its sacred ideals. However, as aforementioned, correction is a hallmark of genuine concern and love. Therefore for all intents and purposes, Colin Kaepernick loves this nation fiercely and expressed his love in a way that is distinctly American. Peaceful protest is a weapon in the arsenal of the disenfranchised, and is protected by the constitution. However, one would argue that despite this protection, protest in this manner is still met with rage, the resulting conclusion being, that it is not the protest itself but rather the cause that draws the ire of the public at large. One could then say that democracy is only held sacred when it serves the purpose of those in power, and social protest only holds a place as much it supplements said power.
In the face of such a dire reality, recognize that we have been placed in this moment, at this fork in the road, with the opportunity to make a decision that would place us on the side of the righteous. Will you thumb your nose and stand against Colin Kaepernick, or will you sit in unity for the advancement of a nation and a downtrodden people.
You can track, trace, and generally stalk the various comings & goings of Jotham Kabuye @JothamKitara