Lately, in the news media, there has been a lot of speculation on what it means to be an American. Racially charged police brutality has been in every headline and at the forefront of everyone's minds for a while now, and the second it cools down, another black person is unjustly killed and everyone gets riled up again. These debates circling among different communities have included several discussion points, namely: who are considered the 'real' Americans, how an American should act, what is deemed as 'patriotic', who the Constitution was written for and by, and etc.
Colin Kaepernick was the first among many recent athletes to express his solidarity for our slain brothers and sisters by kneeling during the national anthem at his NFL games, stating, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color." The point in him doing so was to use his platform as a means to raise awareness of the colossal issue our nation has: that black lives are often treated with a lower regard than our counterparts by societal constructs put in place to keep blacks from advancing as quickly and easily. That includes the cancerous ideology whittled into many law enforcement officers' brains that blacks are innately more violent and need to be lethally restrained quickly in order to not be harmed by them, thus resulting in the 173 blacks killed by the police in 2016 alone.
Instead of understanding and acknowledging that violence against blacks by law enforcement officers and systemic racism are both real, tangible issues, many have taken to the Internet expressing their disapproval of Kaepernick's actions, saying that he "isn't a true American", that he's "disrespecting the nation that allowed him to exist and the people that fought for him to be here" and, my favorite, mocking him by insinuating he couldn't possibly feel the oppression he speaks of because of his multi-million dollar NFL salary.
So this brings me to the crux of my article, which is why do some people feel that they can judge who is a true American and all that it entails? Why do these people feel that everyone who decides to breathe on American soil must be blindly and foolishly allegiant to the point of neglecting their own critical thinking skills and moral compass just to satisfy others' emotions about how the "ideal" American should view this place we all call home? And why do people feel justified in bringing up his salary as if that has anything to do with him sympathizing for what people are going through? That basically validates the notion that you shouldn't care about an issue because it doesn't affect you, and that Colin having money suddenly means he hasn't faced blatant racism and discrimination throughout his life, which is bad on so many levels.
First off, if those people bashing him really loved America so much, they would be trying to uphold its standards by doing all they possibly can to ensure that it really is equal for ALL its people, not just the majority. No one is saying that white people as a group have it easy. White privilege does not mean you grew up with a silver spoon in your mouth. It literally means that you get to live your day-to-day life receiving the benefit of the doubt by everyone you interact with. It means not being wrongly convicted of being a criminal, a thug, or an ISIS sympathist immediately upon entering a space before you even open your mouth to speak. It means that you are the default "good" population, and everyone that falls outside of the white construct is compared to you. It means that you can hear about the injustices toward people of color and still somehow find a way to bring the topic back to yourself and what you don't have.
Instead, those in opposition of Kaepernick's statement ignored and missed the entire point of it and tried to revoke his citizenship because he even bothered to hold America to a higher regard by challenging us to do better as a society. How can we keep shouting from the hilltops that America is the greatest nation on earth when atrocities committed against its people show that America as a whole has so much further to go in order for us to be the Nation we pride ourselves to be? People should never be ashamed in expressing their disappointment in this country that has let down its people. Is it because it doesn't affect you personally that you feel the issue does not exist?
I'm going to end this with a quote from NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
"Patriotism isn't just getting teary-eyed on the Fourth of July or choked up at war memorials. It's supporting what the Fourth of July celebrates and what those war memorials commemorate: the U.S. Constitution's insistence that all people should have the same rights and opportunities and that it is the obligation of the government to make that happen. When the government fails in those obligations, it is the responsibility of patriots to speak up and remind them of their duty."
Colin Kaepernick is a patriot just like you and I. So let's not relegate to trying to revoke his American status just because he chose to speak out against injustice that you chose to be silent on, because if you ask me, he is an exemplary citizen.