Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Kaepernick’s actions can be patriotic

Brett Levin/Flickr
(Brett Levin/Flickr)

I am often against celebrities who make political statements regarding issues they know little about, such as Rihanna’s #FreePalestine tweet two summers ago. Athletes and artists everywhere have a history of using their platform for political purposes. In the case of Colin Kaepernick, the Forty-Niner’s quarterback who is refusing to stand for the national anthem, a different type of statement is being made. Kaepernick isn’t trying to boost his number of Twitter followers; he’s not doing it to achieve more notoriety, nor do I believe he is doing it to exemplify his status as someone who cares about racial issues, although he is proud of the statement he is making. He is doing it to strike a nerve within this country, and to communicate and carry on the statement echoed at the ESPY Awards by Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James: The violence needs to stop. For some reason this makes the star quarterback unpatriotic. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As my colleague Michael Agnello wrote in a column last week, “In essence, our flag helps to reaffirm the values of our country: liberty, and justice for all.” This is what is missed in the discourse. Kaepernick is either a hero in the making, or an enemy of the state, not just a player making a political statement. Now, why is this different than, say, what Rihanna did two years ago? Kaepernick is staying true to his statement and is knowledgeable about his issue (while Rihanna quickly deleted her tweet). And other athletes have come out in support of Kaepernick. Kevin Durant and Steph Curry have both stood by Kaepernick, respecting his right to protest against national injustice.

For some reason, Kaepernick’s statement reflects his lack of patriotism. The American flag is a symbol of American patriotism and something that holds an evolving meaning. While the flag has endured through centuries and long lists of tumultuous events, one must not overlook Kaepernick’s constitutional right, nor should anyone overlook the patriotism he is shedding light on by making this statement.

The bottom line is that to be against Kaepernick is to be for the status quo, one that upholds the egregious statistic that upon birth, black people are over thirty percent more likely to be incarcerated than white people. The problem starts with people like John Tortorella, who say, “If any of my players sit on the bench for the national anthem, they will sit there the rest of the game.” It is comments like these which halt and impede racial progress. Kaepernick will not fix the problem by doing what he is doing, but he is using his platform as a way to show awareness, and confront an issue that has become systemic in this country.

We live in an age where the size of the American flag pin on someone’s lapel determines their love of the country. But what about when someone questions the lapel pin, along with the meaning of traditional patriotism? It was once considered patriotic to own slaves and hang black people. Now both are not only unpatriotic but illegal and are examples of hate crimes. Kaepernick has pledged that all proceeds from his merchandise go to organizations that deal with race relations and help minorities in this country. That is a gracious act of kindness in its own right. As the rest of the National Football League season lays before us, I will be interested to see how Kaepernick’s stance evolves. Whether he becomes more “radical” and political remains to be seen. But the bigger problem isn’t his actions but rather America’s reaction. We live in a land where everyone is constantly in a state of emotion that for some reason deserves to be recognized and respected. Why are we denying that from Kaepernick?

The real problem in all of this is that both the public and the NFL are waiting for this controversy to die down and eventually go away instead of trying to deal with race head-on. Organizations like the NFL try to suppress such speech in the hopes of protecting their name more so than they knew the reputation of the American flag, an entity of this country which should one day embody the values of all people, not just a precious few.

Isaac Simon is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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  • S

    SamSep 30, 2016 at 3:58 am

    This article contains multiple serious failures of basic logic. Does the author believe that “black people” would be “over thirty percent more likely to be incarcerated than white people” “upon birth” (seriously?) if crime rates amongst black americans, particularly violent crime rate (which accounts for most of the disparity in criminality) declined to a level commensurate with that of other racial and ethnic groups?. That is, this article studiously avoids the heart of the very matter, namely crime and criminality, which is what is required in order to reaffirm the fashionable narrative that the author here appears to endorse. And herein lays the fatal flaw in Colin Kaeprenick’s “act of protest”, his premise is as flawed as the equally misguided author of this piece.

  • D

    David Hunt 1990Sep 12, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    I find it interesting that a cogent, articulate, and rather lengthy comment I made, complete with footnotes, has not yet appeared.

  • D

    David Hunt 1990Sep 12, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    First, let me state that I agree that Kaepernick has the right to not stand. The entirety of America is a free speech zone, and he has every right to state his opinion much as I’d disagree. But he is NOT free to escape consequences for that speech.

    Simon starts with a flawed premise: that unarmed black men are being gunned down indiscriminately by police looking to, pardon the term, “Git me a n*gger!” (1) He also uses a second false premise, that the black incarceration rate disproportionate to their population is a priori proof of systemic racism.

    First, a policeman is over 18 TIMES more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male is to be killed by a policeman. FACT: The “gentle giant” Michael Brown assaulted a police officer, tried to take his gun, and then charged that officer. “Hands Up Don’t Shoot!” is a fabricated lie. The guy in Milwaukee, as another example, was 1) killed by a BLACK officer, and 2) holding and pointing a gun at that officer. He won the second-place award in a gun fight: a granite marker.

    Second, if “Black Lives Matter” was really serious, they’d address the fact that if you are a black murder victim, over 90% of the time your murderer is another black. Blacks in general commit almost 50% of the homicides in this country; crime is rampant in black neighborhoods. You want to discuss root causes, let’s discuss root causes, and the agents of those root causes. But first some history.

    Citing history, Simon brings up hanging people, conveniently forgetting that it was DEMOCRATS who drove the Confederacy to secede; the Confederacy had seceded before REPUBLICAN Abraham Lincoln took office because they KNEW their slavery days were over. It was DEMOCRATS who preached a return to the Union as it was – complete with slavery still intact. It was DEMOCRATS who founded the KKK to disrupt now-freed, post-bellum blacks from voting; it was DEMOCRATS who passed the first gun control laws to keep now-free blacks from owning weapons (2) (and they still do: the term “Saturday Night Special” is derived from the derogatory term “N*ggertown Saturday Night”). It was DEMOCRATS who passed marriage license laws to prevent interracial marriages. It was DEMOCRATS like Bull Connor and Walter Maddox and George Wallace (3) who fought integration, and turned hoses on civil rights protestors.

    Early blacks were, almost to a man, Republicans. Because they knew it was REPUBLICANS who had fought to free them. But now to recent history and the Great Conspiracy, er, Society.

    DEMOCRAT Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society”, about which he said – in front of witnesses – “I’ll have the n*ggers voting Democrat for the next 200 years!” By replacing black men as FATHERS, as mandated by the fact that to receive welfare women had to be not married, DEMOCRATS created the financial incentive to sunder black families; since fatherless children are socially unmoored and far more likely to be criminals, this created a permanent underclass of Democrat voters addicted to the crack cocaine of federal money (4).

    Like their slave ancestors, today’s blacks toil for their masters. In exchange for food and housing, every two years they pull the lever to produce a bumper crop of votes. Wait. Food and housing for pulling a lever? Congrats, Democrats. You’ve reduced a proud people, not just to slaves, but to the level of lab rats who, through operant conditioning and the relentless drumming of the media, have been convinced the Democrats have shed their racist pasts and the Republicans taken it up, thus “switching sides”. (5)
    If even 20% of blacks crossed to the Republicans, the Democrats would never win another election. (6) This is why Democrats have hooked blacks on welfare: to destroy their families, to keep them ignorant, and through their use of the media, to keep blacks on the plantation pulling the “correct” lab-cage lever in exchange for food and housing.

    And this is why Democrats now pander to illegal alien, er, pre-registered Democrat Hispanics; this is why Democrats are admitting so many “refugees” who, like their Hispanic and black fellows, will be addicted to government support – just like they’ve done in Europe – and thus fulfilling Bertolt Brecht’s recommendation to “elect a new people”. (7) I.e., ones who will always vote “correctly” as they’re scared blacks might wake up to their lab rat status.

    Where would Kaepernick be had there been no slavery? In Africa. So let’s ship him, and all the other BLM whiners, back. (I wonder if he can earn similar millions there.) Those who wish to live – as I do – in a society that, per a great REPUBLICAN Martin Luther King, Jr, “… where we are judged not by the color of our skin but by the content of our character.” I enjoin you to join me.

    (1) Prager University, Heather MacDonald, Are the Police Racist,
    (2) Cramer, The Racist Roots of Gun Control,
    (3) Pin the Tale on the Donkey: Democrats’ Horrible Racist Past | Bill Whittle, and Examining Black Loyalty to Democrats, and
    (4) Parker, Uncle Sam’s Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America’s Poor and What We Can Do About It, Revised and Updated Edition,
    (6) Sowell, Black Votes Matter,
    (7) Greenfield, How the Left Wins Elections by Transforming Nations,