One simple act has divided our country, spurred debate, and reduced civil discord to an uncivilized shouting match. It has been a little more than two years since then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem to protest the treatment of African Americans in the United States.
Football players who have kneeled have been accused of disrespecting the flag, military, first responders and our country. President Donald Trump even suggested that “maybe [they] shouldn’t be in the country.”
However, I personally believe that kneeling during the national anthem is not a sign of disrespect. Primarily, I believe that the act of kneeling is not a sign of disrespect.
In most contexts, kneeling is either respectful (such as when a Catholic kneels before an altar to show respect to God) or a sign of loyalty (when a knight kneels before a king or a queen).
However, some proponents argue that it is disrespectful because it flies in the face of people who sacrificed their lives for our country. This is untrue; one of the founding principles of this country is the right to free speech, as detailed in the First Amendment.
When asked for her opinion on people who kneel during the anthem, Veteran and GOP Congressional District 2 candidate Lynne Blankenbeker said she fought for people’s right to protest, even if she personally did not approve of it.
Mrs. Blankenbeker gave that comment here, at Saint Anselm during the WMUR TV debates. Several veterans have even come out in support of the NFL players.
Another argument against kneeling is that it violates the rules and customs that surround the flag.
The U.S. Flag Code lists what is and what is not respectful in Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8. Neither kneeling nor standing during the national anthem is included under the section.
However, there are a series of violations that occur every day that few people seem to be upset about. For example, “no part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform” and “the flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.”
It begs the question, why are violations allowed, while non-violations are forbidden?
I believe this gets at the heart of why this issue is so divisive. When people kneel during the anthem it forces America to recognize and confront a horrible aspect of society, and for many, they do not want to address it.
The truth is not all races in America are treated equally.
It is a sad reality that in the land where “all men are created equal,” African Americans are significantly more likely to be pulled over for traffic violations and are 20% more likely than white drivers to receive a ticket, according to a Stanford University study.
African Americans in New York City are eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites according to a study by Vox. African Americans are also more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder according to a 2017 study by the National Registry of Exonerations.
To say that inequality does not exist in this country is, at its best, naïve, and at its worst, ignorant.
Inequality exists, and people deserve to know about it. That was why Colin Kaepernick kneeled two years ago.
In an interview with NFL Media, Kaepernick said that he is “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
The reason why NFL players are kneeling is not that they want to be disrespectful but because they want to bring attention to an injustice plaguing our nation.
Fighting injustice is not disrespectful towards the flag or the country; it is a sign of utmost respect for the American virtues of liberty and equality.