Stand for the Flag, Kneel before no Man

How Colin Kapernick’s kneeling divided instead of united…

(U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Jannelle Dickey)

By: Hayden Cunningham

What value does the national anthem have for American society? The 206 year old song played before every patriotic event and sports game was written to describe the American flag prevailing through adversity. As the anthem is played, we all stand with our hands over our hearts to show respect to the country that flag symbolizes.

What does it mean to kneel during the national anthem? The modern trend began in 2016 by Colin Kapernick (the multi-millionaire football player). Kapernick refused to stand as a way to protest systemic racism and police brutality towards minorities in our country.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color… There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Colin Kapernick (2016 NFL interview)

People are so quick to use the term “systemic racism” and claim it is prevalent in modern America. Understand that using this term means that you are saying the government has systems and laws set-up to intentionally push down racial minorities. This is just not true. The more the term “systemic racism” is used, the more it becomes ‘lie by repetition’.

People make the mistake of grouping all police shooting of a black individual in the “Black Lives Matter” group. While one case my show racial prejudice, it does not mean they all do. Modern America has laws and a judicial system to protect ALL Americans regardless of race. Should acts of injustice occur, we should take these events case-by-case to understand what happened and condemn those that deserve condemnation. We make sure justice has been imposed, then we move on.

BLM’s intentions claim to be a series of non-violent protests against racially motivated police brutality. But it’s more than that. The organization leaders refer to themselves as “trained Marxists” who support communism. Their protests have often turned violent. They also support the efforts to completely defund the police.

Black Lives Matter as an organization has applauded those who kneel for the anthem. This week, the MLB held a special BLM tribute before the national anthem for teams to kneel, followed by the anthem where many players continued to kneel. Even after giving a time and place to kneel, players still chose to do so specifically during the anthem. But besides citing “systemic racism” why kneel? As protesters chant “Black Lives Matter” repeatedly in the streets, who are they speaking to? Where are these people in America that think black lives don’t matter? And just because someone claims they do not support the movement doesn’t mean they think black lives don’t matter. It means they cannot support the organization’s political agenda. Even those athletes who stood during the kneeling ceremony for those reasons were condemned.

So again I ask: what does it mean to kneel? It’s a statement of divisiveness. 330 million people make up this country. And with such a large population comes differences in culture, religion, race, ethnicity, background, etc. But the one thing we all have in common is that we are all American. To honor this commonality, we stand for the flag and what it stands for. It represents a country that’s laws are based upon documents claiming “all men are created equal.” And while that may not have been properly implemented in the past by the men who succeeded the writers, the words still hold true.

It is because of this truth that black leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Frederick Douglas cited the Constitution and Declaration of Independence instead of rejecting them. They called out society’s hypocrisy between their racial prejudice and their values as Americans. They showed that if America followed it’s own values, then it is a country of equality for all. Even during a time of actual systemic racism, they still believed in America’s promise of freedom and the flag that symbolized it.

“Interpreted as it ought to be interpreted, the constitution is a glorious liberty document!”

Frederick Douglas (1843 Anti-slavery speech)

For Kapernick and athletes alike who choose to kneel during the anthem, I understand your anger, fear, and rage. I also understand that many who kneel aren’t intending to cause contention or divisiveness. Rather they see instances of violence towards their race and have concerns that American society may not be much better than it was in the 1960s. But understand what your act of kneeling portrays: choosing to reject a ceremony of unity. I respect the right to kneel, but will unapologetically state that it is an inappropriate time for a political statement that is based on a lie. The national anthem is a time where we can stand together as one.

The premise of systemic racism in our modern judicial system is untrue, and maybe these athletes haven’t taken the time to understand that. Or they may be protesting a desire for social (not systemic) change, which is more respectable. We can have a civil and polite conversation about what needs to happen in our society. There are conversations that can be had about poverty in inner-cities, police reform, etc. If a group of people feel like they’re not being heard, of course we should listen and help them feel like their desires are being heard. Those who say they aren’t feeling heard must protest peacefully instead of choosing to riot. And if you don’t think people understand how you are feeling, take the time to calmly explain it to them until they do and be willing to listen to their response. Do not discredit someone and think it is impossible for them to understand your life and concerns simply because they do not share the same skin color as you.

Protests have taken the action kneeling one step further by having white Americans kneel to black Americans and ask for their forgiveness for racial injustices. You should not have to apologize for the actions of white people who lived before you simply because you are also white. You do not speak for them, you speak for yourself.

Our country was founded by people who were tired of kneeling to a king (physically and metaphorically). The American flag serves as a symbol of freedom. In a way, that flag promises the freedom to kneel to no man. Historically, kneeling has mostly been used as an act of subjectivity. But in America, you do not have to kneel for anyone as we are all equal. And for those who are religious, the only being you are obligated to kneel before is God.

Because you are an American, you clearly have the right to choose what you do during the national anthem. But understand that if your objective is unity and equality, don’t get in the way of a symbol that already stands for that. Protest peacefully in other ways that show what your desires and solutions are for the societal concerns you may have.

I kneel for no person or group, but I will listen to your concerns and have a civil dialogue about the state of our modern society.

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