Let’s start simple and clear: NFL veteran – and my fraternity brother in Kappa Alpha Psi – Colin Kaepernick, who sports the No. 7 jersey for the San Francisco 49ers, says America is not great and he gets castigated by the populist masses of America.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump says America is not great and he is resoundingly cheered by the same populist masses. Really? The dichotomy begs the question: who actually gets to be an American patriot and why?
We can begin to address the truth when we finish the silly season of red herrings, straw men, head fakes, rabbit holes, conservative media spin, alt-right hacks, and Black male media tropes about good brother Kaepernick not respecting the troops, disrespecting the flag, false equivalencies about his salary versus his right to stand for the oppressed, and ignorant questions of his “blackness” that were also cast on President Obama.
There is nothing more American or patriotic than standing up proudly and loudly for what one believes to be standing in the way of your own inalienable rights and pursuit of happiness. In this case, that intractable impediment is the same old song of systemic racial oppression in America that has taken on the modern-day Jim Crow in the form of police violence, murder, and mass incarceration, all of which propel the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
We can’t ignore the most insidious chorus of brothers trying to tear down other brothers who take a stand against racial oppression or step outside of the limited lane and muzzled tone assigned to the Black athlete in America; we are left with the stark naked Black truth!
So, no! I’m not going to write another explanation for good brother Kaepernick in an attempt to “Black-splain” a narrative of his falsely contrived ills. I’m not going to explain the fundamental freedoms (like dissent and individualism) that this country was built on that are represented by the symbol of our flag.
I’m certainly not going to explain why many in the military have rallied behind Kaepernick because they know they serve for the cause of freedom in its highest form. They also stand for the right of someone to question whether their freedom is being abrogated or simply put, dissed!
Instead, I wanted to drop a quick question to America. I want us to take the time to understand why this young dynamic brother feels the need to threaten his very livelihood for issues that some say don’t exist and others say we put to bed as a nation long ago?
Last time I checked, there isn’t a lot of economic or celebrity upside for a current NFL player who sits during the National Anthem. The pantheon of giants who spoke out reads like a who’s who of the “scorned in their time, and praised in their remembrance.” The list includes Jackie Robinson (who also took issue with our flag), Muhammad Ali (who threw his gold medal in the river in disgust at racial injustice), Jim Brown, Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Arthur Ashe, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Indeed, history remembers these titans much differently today.
So, if you can understand what’s at stake and how strongly someone must feel about racial injustice and oppression to risk so much, I go back to why one person can question America’s promise and be cheered and deemed a true patriot and another reviled for doing the same? I ask again, who determines who is or is not a patriot and why?