To the casual National Football League fan, you probably wouldn’t recognize my brother Colin Kaepernick if he walked up to you on the street. If you’re like me, NFL Sunday is must-watch TV, beginning with the morning pre-game shows on various sports networks to the Sunday night game and those in between. This season has and will continue to be quite different. You see, Kaepernick felt a calling, in a sense, an awakening and a responsibility to speak out. It’s an awakening that has been long overdue as people of color, particularly, African American men have been plagued by injustices including police brutality in our communities.
When Kaepernick decided to sit down and later kneel during the national anthem, some said it was selfish and unpatriotic. His critics damn near lost their minds. How dare he not respect the stars and stripes? He was called every name except the son of God, including some n-words, and faced death threats on his social media accounts.
(Another topic: Why is the national anthem played before sporting events, anyway?)
I’ve heard the dumbest responses to his peaceful protest. First, “If you don’t like it, leave.” Are you serious? Leave for what? Isn’t that what the flag supposedly represents–freedom of expression, land of the free, home of the brave?
Tell that to Alton Sterling, Philando Castille,Terrence Crutcher, Keith Lamont Scott, Alfred Olango and the long list of other African American men and women killed by law enforcement.
And here is where his critics totally missed the point and the message: Kaepernick’s protest is not about disrespecting military men and women or good law enforcement officers. The American flag they idolize has failed people of color time and time again since this country was founded. How can I deep in my soul truly feel patriotism (read the third verse of the national anthem written by Francis Scott Key) for a country that continues to condone the killing of my brothers and sisters? America should acknowledge that the systemic killing of African Americans is unjust. And that symbol, a revered inanimate object, hasn’t lived up to what the founding fathers intended. Although, we all know people of color were not who they had in mind at the inception of the Constitution.
My emotions have been all over the place with the killing of my brothers. I support Kaepernick 1,000 percent and will continue to do so. Taking a stand for what’s right is never easy. Rosa Parks sat. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. marched and was jailed. Brother Malcolm X said “by any means necessary.” The Greatest, Muhammad Ali, said he wouldn’t fight an unpopular war on foreign land when white men would not fight for him here in America. Brother Kaepernick is not on their level, but his quiet protest is a start. Now the question is: are you a part of the problem or a part of the solution? Let that marinate.
Kendrick Henderson is a news and sports videographer, editor and writer. Kendrick hails from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and attended Tyler Junior College.
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