Ronan Pandit | Monday 12 September 2016 | GMT 16:00 | firstname.lastname@example.org | @RonanPandit
On 26 August 2016, America went into a state of shock when the San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, refused to stand for the national anthem when his team faced the Green Bay Packers. The country gasped as they watched their beloved athlete disrespect the flag that they so dearly cherished. It wasn’t long before the media began asking questions: how dare he do such a thing? Did he realise that he would cause such a reaction? And, why did he do this? – Kaepernick’s response?
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour.”
Aside from the fact that the Civil Rights Movement has made tremendous leaps in our time (which I will not discuss in this article), Kaepernick nevertheless felt the need to express this out-dated and racially divisive rhetoric that America is still racist. He must have forgotten that African Americans constitute 68% of the National Football League, and that he makes an annual salary of $19 million. But no he is right – America “oppresses black people”.
Kaepernick’s argument that white people treat African Americans poorly must have come as a shock to the white parents that adopted him and raised him to get to the position that he is in today. I would have understood his outrage were he to have said this in the 1950s when Jim Crow still existed; however, the systematic degradation of African Americans is no longer the great issue that it used to be.
Of course, this immediately made him a saint in the eyes of the media. Attacking your own country and its values has become somewhat of a fashion. In today’s world, doing such a thing means you are instantly praised; you become a martyr as you protest against a social injustice – even if such an injustice no longer exists. The media loves to perpetuate the idea of a racist America, and this event just helped them in spreading more divisive and acrimonious lies.
In CNN’s coverage of the fiasco, African American news anchor, Victor Blackwell, decided to debate the issue with two other African Americans. To no surprise they all held similar views to Kaepernick’s actions. One argued: “we should wish him the best of luck in getting through this”. Another said: “I admire his courage”, and asked: “when is it a good time to stand up to police violence?” On a platform like CNN, it was expected that no one would question this view. But like on most leftist news outlets, facts and studies mean nothing.
Questioning the idea that there is an issue of racism in America isn’t considered a fair argument to make anymore. Disagreeing with this immediately transforms you into an uncompassionate racist bigot who has no respect for Kaepernick’s First Amendment right to freely express himself. This, obviously, is not true. The problem is not the exercising of his right; the problem is that he did this in order to accentuate a non-existent issue, which has fundamentally damaging effects on race relations.
CNN also interviewed the African American film director Spike Lee. Lee has previously expressed racist thoughts, and has hypocritically supported segregation in large African American communities, saying that he wants to maintain the exclusion of whites from areas such as the “south Bronx” and “in Harlem”. Clearly, this is the voice of reason that will offer a fair and objective outlook on the situation. It was even clearer that he would have an unbiased opinion when he came to the interview with an ‘X’ on his cap – a reference to Malcolm X.
Lee argued that understanding the history of the civil rights movement is necessary before we criticise Kaepernick for his actions. While it may be true that African Americans were treated horrendously fifty years ago, this has become less and less relevant. The treatment of black people in the past does not justify the disrespectful actions of Colin Kaepernick. While it is fair for him to want to tackle injustices, having unfounded criticisms of America and then not standing to the national anthem does nothing to help African American communities.
If Kaepernick truly cared about the social status of black people in America, he could do much more than simply sit on a bench and whine over racial inequality. He could actively encourage African American communities to complete their education so as to better themselves in the future. Unfortunately, he doesn’t do this – yet the media still portrays Kaepernick as a hero. Personally, when I think of heroism, I imagine soldiers landing on the beaches of Normandy. I do not imagine someone not honouring an officer from the US Navy as he sings the national anthem.
Instead of exacerbating this issue, we should acknowledge racial equality. Kaepernick and the response of the media in labelling him a hero do not improve race relations. They do not ensure a cohesive society. They divide communities and they divide the nation. Ultimately, this has to stop. Stop with the exaggerations. Stop with the lies. Kaepernick: show some respect!