By Jayda Jones
The last few words of the national anthem—the home of the brave—could refer to Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid, or any of the dozens of other National Football League players who have protested police brutality by kneeling during the song. Two years after Kaepernick first declined to stand during the pregame rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” NFL players are still exercising their first-amendment rights to demonstrate against racism.
Some say the anthem is no time to protest. But far from being unpatriotic, the act of kneeling is a respectful form of civil disobedience that protests the fact that America does not treat its citizens equally.
It’s important to remember why Kaepernick started his protest. A few weeks before Kaepernick first demonstrated during the anthem, Alton Sterling, an unarmed African-American man, was killed by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “This is what lynchings look like in 2016,” Kaepernick said. Other players soon followed.
Peaceful protest, even during the national anthem, is protected under the First Amendment. But while the players clearly have a right to speak, it’s important that we listen.
For too long, the voices of people of color in America have been overlooked, which is why kneeling is so important. It’s showing that we as African Americans cannot praise or pledge our full hearts to a country that is condoning the murder of our people. It’s showing that while we respect our country enough to refrain from speaking during the anthem, we still demand to be heard through our actions to protest this long history of injustice.
Kaepernick’s loudest critic has been President Trump, who has pushed the NFL to suspend players who protest during the national anthem. “Find another way to protest,” Trump tweeted last week. But the protest’s goals were never to disrespect. The true betrayal of America is the brutality and injustice many citizens continue to experience.
The issue of police brutality has instilled fear in the black community, leading many of them to flee when a policeman is in sight lest they be targeted and terrorized. Of course, this only makes the situation worse and leads policemen to target black individuals more, but what are you supposed to do when the color of your skin is a danger to you, and apparently, a danger to someone else?
We protest for 17-year-old high school student Antwon Rose, unarmed when he was killed by police in East Pittsburgh, Pa. We protest for Charles Kinsey, a behavioral therapist shot by police in North Miami, Fla., while helping a patient. We protest for Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Stephon Clark and too many others. African Americans are still being brutally and wrongfully murdered, and justice is rare. That’s why we protest. Until I, as a black female, or my brother, as a black male, can comfortably exist in a room with a police officer, or walk into a store without being accused of stealing, we will protest. Until society starts treating African-Americans like first-class citizens, we will protest.
You may not understand it, you may stand, but don’t be surprised if I kneel. That’s patriotism.