What I know
Why are African American individuals being punished for exercising their American rights? Specifically speaking on the right to protest. Back in the days when the civil rights movements were taking place, people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks were persecuted for simply wanting to be treated equal. Now today, African Americans are facing that same suppression from the government concerning the rights to protest. Although the 1st amendment states that American citizens have the right to petition the government, citizens today are being ostracized for doing just that.
The history of the civil rights movement occurred after African American slaves were freed, following the 13th amendment. With this freedom, African Americans were still getting brutal treatment through several different institutions. African American kids and white kids had to go to different schools, and ride different school buses. African Americans were continuously being lynched and beaten after slavery was abolished. The Klu Klux Klan, a white supremacist group would walk freely on the streets in their hoods and costumes, instilling fear in African American individuals. These components, and several other injustices sparked the urge for African Americans to defend themselves and peacefully protest segregation and overall racism. While in jail Martin Luther king wrote the “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, in this letter Martin Luther King Jr. writes about his reflections and the need for protest in America. Dr. King specifically writes,
“Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood” (King 11).
Just as Martin Luther King Jr. stated, creating tension in society is necessary to raise a change and force individuals to acknowledge these social injustices. This can be done through protesting, if individuals don’t protest no real tension will be created.
Throughout the years, a lot of progress has been created in America regarding civil rights and discrimination. However, progression doesn’t equal resolution, it’s an ongoing process in this nation. Bureaucracies in American continue to discriminate against African Americans; speaking on Banks, health insurance, education etc. These are essential for survival and success in America but, these are not accessible to minorities.
The most recent issue in today’s society is police brutality; specifically, police officers killing black men and getting no punishment for it. There have been several cases from Treyvon Martin a young black man that got shot on his way home from the grocery store. Or Philando Castile a man that got shot 7 times with his seatbelt on and his child in the car. These are just a few examples of the several killings of black individuals from police officers. Once the black community realized how often these murders were happening, blacks felt the need to protest. One famous black organization is black lives matter.
The black community has made it an effort to raise awareness to America that black men getting killed by officers is a serious injustice. However, the black community also needs an individual with a higher social status that will attract more people. The most infamous leader today for black awareness is Colin Kaepernick. Colin Kaepernick was a former NFL quarter back for the San Francisco 49ers. As a very talented young athlete, Kaepernick has a huge following. Moreover, being in the NFL also gave him a higher social status. Kaepernick used his status to raise awareness of the recent acts of police brutality on behalf of the black community. During the singing of the National Anthem, Kaepernick took a knee instead of standing with his right hand over is heart. This was a clear protest to America in lieu of the several cases of black men being killed by the police. However, even though this demonstration of peaceful protest is written and allowed in the US Constitution, the peaceful protest cost Colin Kaepernick his lifelong career. In an article called, “The Perilous Fight” by Sean Gregory, the author discusses Kaepernicks journey through college and pro football. When newscasters started to realize Colin Kapernick never stood during the national anthem, they started to question him about it in interviews. Sean Gregory wrote a quote from one of Kaepernicks interviews which states,
“”I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said. “To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder”” (9).
Kaepernicks reason for taking a knee during the national anthem is clear and just. As a man of color seeing other men of color getting killed by the very people that are supposed to protect us has changed the way he views America. Rightfully so, it’s very difficult for the black community to see their own people getting killed and receiving no justice on a regular basis. Colin Kaepernick exercising his first amendment right is reasonable and, should be no reason to keep him from playing football.
Witnessing Colin Kaepernick peacefully protest the rights of black individuals provided me with a lot of inspiration. Being African American, there is a struggle to be heard and recognized as equal even today. For me, Colin Kaepernick is a role model of what I should be doing to create the change I want to see in America.
After going through all this information, I wanted to understand, why this has become such a controversial issue in America. Exercising our basic American rights should be a good representation of the freedom America lets us have; and what our troops fight for us to have. But instead leaders in government such as, Donald Trump, finds this to be a disgrace to America. Trump feels this way because he sees taking a knee during the national anthem as an insult to our military. In an article called, “The Protest Song”, by Charles Pierce, he digs into this issue regarding NFL players taking knee. He illustrates how bringing in the National Anthem during football games inevitably brought in politics. Pierce writes, “In short, if you’re going to perform national anthems, you’re going to have politics. And if you have politics, you’re going to have political statements, and this being the United States of America, those statements are not always going to make everyone comfortable” (11). This is worded perfectly, since the NFL brought in the national anthem it is a political stance to stand and follow the usual ritual; however, players like Colin Kaepernick acknowledge that taking a knee during the national anthem is a blatant political statement that he isn’t aligned with America. Consequently, this bothers political leaders in America because Kaepernick is a public figure clearly stating he isn’t in agreeance with America.
While doing research on my topic, I wanted to find information for both sides of the issue. So, first I went into the academic research complete database and searched ‘national anthem’. I wanted to gain knowledge on the history of the national anthem so I could have a greater understanding of why it’s so important to Americans. After that, I wanted to get more background information on Colin Kapernick so, I searched his name and found several articles. The articles showed me that, Colin Kaepernick is truly an intelligent man that decided to use his platform for good. Kaepernick never hurt anyone of forced anyone to join in with him as he kneeled during the national anthem; Kaepernick simply did what he felt was best in regards to peacefully protesting for his ethnic community. The next research I decided to do was learning why exactly the president of the United States felt like all NFL player that don’t have proper conduct during the national anthem should be fired. Donald Trump’s response also provided aid to my opinion that those protesting in the NFL are doing right by the black community and other minority communities receiving social injustices everyday. Discovering that Colin Kaepernick really is a genuine man reaching out to his community, and willing to loose what he worked so hard for, to contribute to a better cause attested to his character. Unveiling how controlling the government is in trying to keep NFL players from protesting by threatening their jobs was sad to learn about; people trying to fight for or equality is what America is supposed to be about.
After doing research, I realized that the real reason government officials have an issue NFL players taking a knee is because, they’re taking a political stance against America. However, having an NFL player take a knee during the nation anthem is needed and constitutionally correct. Taking a knee is needed to show the rest of America what is going on in regards to police killing black men and getting away with it. Instead of the president attacking these players he should be trying to understand the message behind they’re protest. In the article, “Trumps Official Playbook”, the author writes, “For NFL players, it was hard to square the fact that the President had called black athletes “sons of bitches” for peacefully using their constitutional right to free speech, just five weeks after defending the same rights for violent white nationalists marching on Charlottesville, Va.” (Altman 7). This quote gives concrete evidence of how racially unfair Donald Trump is. He defends white supremacists for protesting but, he insults black athletes for simply wanting justice and equality. All in all, it’s clear that the issue of taking a knee is a political one and justice has yet to be served for African Americans. But in the end, a great leader, Colin Kaepernick came out of it and is creating evolution for the black community.
Altman, Alex, et al. “Trump’s Offensive Playbook. (Cover Story).” Time, vol. 190, no. 14, 09 Oct. 2017, pp. 32-39. EBSCOhost, chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=125386173&site=ehost-live.
This article goes over the response from Donald Trump regarding the occurrence of NFL players taking a knee. The article shoes how Trump ignores other serious/disastrous issues in American, and instead he is worried about NFL players peacefully protesting. I used the in my paper to show how there is no harm done in taking a knee, the government is against it because it shows deviance in America.
Gregory, Sean, et al. “The Perilous Fight. (Cover Story).” Time, vol. 188, no. 13, 03 Oct. 2016, pp. 36-41. EBSCOhost, chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=118292430&site=ehost-live.
This article goes over the history of Colin Kapernicks football legacy. The author goes over his college days and his more recent success in America. The author shows how Colin Kaepernick has always showed an interest in equal rights and social injustices. I used this in my paper to highlight the testimonies Kaepernick gave when being questioned on why he was taking a knee.
King, Martin Luther. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Letter from Birmingham Jail, 8/1/2017, pp. 1-12. EBSCOhost, chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=21212445&site=ehost-live.
This article includes the Letter From Birmingham jail written my Dr. Martin Luther King. In his letter Dr. King writes about how he ended up in jail and why it was necessary. I used this in my paper because Dr. King appropriately describes the need for protest to raise awareness.
Pierce, Charles P. “Protest Song.” Sports Illustrated, vol. 127, no. 10, 02 Oct. 2017, pp. 30-34. EBSCOhost, chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=125367400&site=ehost-live.
This article gives more background information on the National Anthem. It goes into depth on why exactly the national anthem is so important during sports games. I used this quote to show how athletes taking a knee is a political decision. This information is important because it explains why American leaders are truly against this form of protest.