Kneeling During the National Anthem

Frederick Douglas in What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July that national symbols or anthems can have different meanings depending on the perspective. From the perspective of the slave the Fourth of July was not a day of celebration but a day in which they were reminded of the hypocrisy of a nation that preaches that, “all men are created equal.” Frederick Douglas used this speech to bring this different perspective to light on a national level. In America, not every man was treated equally and Frederick used his platform to present that fact and how that reality changes the view of the many millions of people currently enslaved who lived in the country.

When Colin Kaepernick started his protest against police brutality and the oppression of people of color he was criticized by many. Kaepernick started his protest by sitting down while the national anthem was being played but after getting advice from former Green Beret Nate Boyer convinced him that it would be more respectful to kneel instead of sit. Kaepernick’s protest soon gained national attention and many players began to join him in his movement. With attention came sharp criticism, people believed that it was disrespectful to the troops to kneel during the national anthem. Kaepernick insisted that he was not trying to disrespect the troops but instead bring attention to the cause that he was doing said protest for, police brutality and the oppression of people of color. Kaepernick continued his protest throughout the season and was both praised, usual by Democrats/Liberals, and criticized, usual by Republicans/conservatives, by people. The protest gained additional attention when Donald Trump went on the offensive and said that owners of football teams should fire any player who kneels as it is disrespectful. The protest still continue to this day and Trump continues his crusade against such actions, though Trump has been criticized as people believe that he has more important things to tweet about.

Thus, the meaning of the protest is different depending on the perspective of the person viewing them. To sympathizers of the Kaepernick, they see a man that is using his platform to bring awareness to police brutality and the oppression of people of color. To his critics Kaepernick is disrespecting the flag and our troops and is bringing politics into a place they shouldn’t be. While trying to compare Colin Kaepernick to Frederick Douglas might seem extreme I think it is certainly true that they both pointed out to a national audience the disparities that existed between the treatment of POC and their white counterparts. While Douglas actively pointed out the different perspective slaves and whites had of the 4th of July, the difference of perspective of Kaepernick’s protest has more occurred naturally. Republicans/Conservatives view the protest as a sign of disrespect while Democrats/Liberals see the protest as a rightful call for justice. Rather than falling down mostly race lines, though race obviously plays a role, this varying perspective falls more on ideological lines. Like stated above Conservatives tend to disagree with the protest and Liberals tend to agree with the protest. Frederick Douglass goal was to open people’s minds to the varying perspectives that existed in America at the time, this is comparable to what Colin Kaepernick is doing with his protest now. With his protest he is bringing attention to a difficult subject with the hopes of showing others that people of color have a different perspective and are perceived differently than many of their fellow Americans.

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1 Response to Kneeling During the National Anthem

  1. samiomais says:

    Hi Jacob,

    You’re absolutely right that symbols and actions can be perceived very differently by different people, and Kaepernick’s kneeling protest is a great contemporary example of that.

    I wonder how one can bring “the other side” to see one’s own perspective. In my own experience, debates in which two sides have totally different perspectives on the same material event or symbol suffer from emotional attachments, which frustrate efforts at coming to a common understanding. To make it worse, when a person feels they are being misunderstood, they may be too impatient to explain themselves, and become irritated, feeding the already high level of emotion in the debate. I fear that without first toning down the emotion, fruitful dialogue is not possible, and we will each be stuck in our perspectives and unwilling to listen, let alone consider, the other side.

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