India Kirssin | Managing Editor
“Shut up and Stand up!” “Notorious disgrace to America.”
These were a few of the phrases thrown at Colin Kaepernick in his first NFL start of the season against the Buffalo Bills. If they seem harsh, they shouldn’t. These are mild compared to the death threats and accusations Kaepernick has had hurled at him since he began protesting racial injustice in America by sitting or taking a knee during the National Anthem.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said during an interview with NFL Media. “To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”
There are many discussions brought up by his protest: respect (or lack thereof) for our military and country, police brutality, and peaceful protest.
One of the arguments that has bothered me the most is the implication that Kaepernick is purposefully disrespecting our military with his “un-American” actions.
The first amendment gives all American citizens the right to free speech. The first amendment is also a right our military fights to protect. If the men and women of our military are willing to lay down their lives to ensure the protection of our rights and then we don’t use them, what’s the point? Kaepernick is exercising his rights in an attempt to fix a problem he sees in our country, an attempt to make it a better place. How is that “un-American”?
His protest is peaceful and is not intended to disrespect our military in any way. He is still respectful during the anthem: quiet and attentive, with eyes on the flag. If he turned his back or didn’t come out of the locker room for the anthem at all, I would be writing a very different column. There is a line and those actions cross it. Kaepernick’s do not.
Public figures have a responsibility to use their platforms for good, whether it’s in their job description or not. Too many choose to stay silent. Kaepernick has utilized his platform and has given people who feel oppressed a way to be heard. His actions have started a national discussion. Any talk, positive or negative, is a step in the right direction because it takes away the stigma of a taboo topic.
By standing with his protest, Kaepernick has made himself the face of a movement. He has subjected himself to harm, verbally and physically. I have a lot of respect for someone who is willing to take the abuse dealt to them for standing up for what they believe in.
I also have little respect for people who feel like they can completely disrespect another human being just because they disagree with their views or actions. If you disagree with Kaepernick, fine. That doesn’t justify making ignorant comments, posting poisonous messages or threatening to kill him. I’m sure he would love to thank you for proving his point if you choose to take that route.