Ah, the land of the free, and the home of the brave. The United States is where people of all cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds can hold hands and skip merrily down the road, right? After all, the Pledge of Allegiance strongly ends with, “one nation, Under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Naturally, one would think that this extends to all people.
Let me first put everything on the table and address my privilege as being a white female in today’s society. I have not, and I will not ever, encountered racism or discrimination based on my skin tone. The stories of injustice, which date back thousands of years before I’m here, writing this, are vast and plentiful, adorned with horrors and strife, as well as systemic oppression. This is something that is deep-rooted in history, especially American history.
But, this is not my story to tell. It is my job as an ally to amplify the voices of those who do have a story to tell: to stand behind those who are hurting, who are frustrated, and who are scared of what the American society has become.
While I can fully acknowledge that systematic oppression and racism is not my story to tell, other people definitely seem to have an issue in this regard. A lot of this is resurfacing once more due to the football players in the NFL who have kneeled during the National Anthem to silently protest the state of today’s society, namely the society comprised of racist people whose opinions can be freely amplified with little to no repercussion.
And suddenly, with this movement in the NFL, every Trump-supporting white person becomes an expert on racism.
The National Anthem means different things to different people. For some, it’s a brilliant chant to be said, honoring the flag of the country they know and love. Others view it as a nod to the troops, for risking their lives in countless wars. And to kneel during the anthem is seen as a disrespect to everything the country holds near and dear to them.
True patriots, however, know that the troops are not fighting so that Americans can sit here and idolize a flag, pretending as though the country doesn’t have deep-seated problems which are not being addressed (leading to the incarceration and deaths of millions of men and women). Troops fight so that we, as Americans, have the right and freedom to live as we choose, to believe what we believe. Freedom does not consist of restricting the rights of others; that’s a contradiction in its purest form.
In the age of technology, intent is becoming less and less relevant. No one cares about ‘why’ someone is doing something, they just care that it’s being done. So when Colin Kaepernick walks onto the field and kneels for his fallen brothers and sisters, who have died for pointless reasons; for his friends and family and for all other black or biracial people who are facing some sort of discrimination because of the color of their skin, it’s not out of disrespect. It’s a powerful, peaceful means of protest.
When the National Anthem, one of the very things that the country as a whole typically finds near and dear to it, stops applying to everyone, there needs to be a change. While it’s impossible to undo the past, we sometimes forget that we are writing history as we know it. Change is not only possible for the future, it’s necessary. Until everyone is fully equal, fully protected and ensured opportunities, I will not be quiet. I will continue to amplify the voices of black and biracial people, not because I feel like I have to, but because anyone with a heart can see that the treatment of these individuals is largely unjust.
Change will not start with those who boycott the NFL, stating that the people who are kneeling are the problem. Change will start with people like you and me. It’s hard to be proud of the country when seeing the direction it’s going in. Until life is safe and opportune for everyone, I will support the cause that the people in the NFL are kneeling for.