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Thursday, May 23, 2024

It’s time we have the talk: not the momma-bird, poppa-bird talk you were warned about in elementary school (hopefully), but rather, the Colin Kaepernick talk. For those of you who don’t know, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback sparked some serious outrage when he unapologetically refused to stand up during the playing of the national anthem during Friday’s game between the 49ers and the Green Bay Packers.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he told NFL Media after the game. On Sunday, he defended his decision to the San Jose Mercury Times, stating, “There are a lot of things that are going on that are unjust, people aren’t being held accountable for, that’s something that needs to change… this country stands for liberty, freedom, justice for all. And it’s not happening for all right now.”

So, the million-dollar question: Is Kaepernick wrong for not honoring the national anthem? Well, for what’s probably the first time in the history of the human race, you can actually find a decent answer to this question on Twitter: “It’s his right to sit. And it’s my right to say he’s an a--hole.” In other words, it doesn’t really matter.

With any sort of nonviolent form of protest like Kaepernick’s, we should all first address the intended message of the protest — the conversation the protester wants us all to have.

There are many great things to love about our country, truly. But there is also no denying that our country has a record of unnecessary violence, immense corruption and tragedy that continues to this day, despite our claims of exceptional liberty, equality and greatness. How do we live with that? And, as Kaepernick was specifically concerned with, how do we praise our national anthem with all of this in mind?

It’s a pretty clear message, and no matter how you feel about Kaepernick’s actions, the conversation he — along with many, many others — wants to have is a necessary one. It’s the kind of conversation that will make us better countrymen: to be able to love your country enough to criticize it in the hopes of making it better for everyone.

Unfortunately, there is this thing called social media and these people called trolls.

So, instead of having the conversations we should be having, we’re talking about whether Kaepernick, half-white and half-black, can really talk about the issues facing Black America. Instead, we’re talking about whether Kaepernick hates America, hates veterans or is simply unpatriotic. Some have even gone as far as to say Kaepernick and those who would defend him should leave the country.

Let’s be real, here: Nobody owns patriotism. Jon Stewart reminded us of this when he briefly hosted “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on July 21 to put Fox News in its place for its stomach-twisting favoritism toward You-Know-Who. Republicans don’t own patriotism. Democrats don’t own it. And obnoxious football fans on social media definitely do not own it (God help us all if they did).

You can agree with Kaepernick’s decision to protest the national anthem. You can disagree with it. You can be indifferent. We won’t tell you what position to take. What we will encourage you to do is shut out all the sensationalism and senseless bickering going on. Focus on the real message behind Kaepernick’s action.

The longer we delay a conversation about our country’s serious issues, the more pain and unrest we will have to live through.

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