Protesting the National Anthem

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Protesting the National Anthem

Reginald Webb, Times Staff

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I applaud San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the National Anthem to bring attention to racism and police brutality.

It has stirred up controversy and inspired others to use the National Anthem as their platform of protest.  He has been subjected to a great deal of scrutiny, harsh criticism in social media, and death threats.

Many regard the National Anthem as something that should be off limits as far as protests are concerned. They consider it a tribute to our troops primarily and as such offensive to not stand for it.

While I understand how someone could reach this conclusion, it is a mistake to demonize and regard Kaepernick as anti-American.

The Anthem actually is a good platform for protest. It is a tribute to a flag symbolizing freedom, liberation and resolve. The lyrics not included in the song we all know begin to reveal the hypocrisy of what we think the National Anthem represents and its writer, Frances Key’s avarice.

Key’s poem delights in the killing of slaves who had signed up to fight with the British in exchange for their freedom. Key, an anti-abolitionist feels the slaves are treasonous and should simply remain obedient as subjects. The anthem Americans are supposed to show so much public pride for glamorizes the killing of slaves.

So those amongst us so offended and angry at Kaepernick should also appreciate the humility of him and other black Americans who have been asked to celebrate this song, their patriotism, and allegiance, in spite of its offensive lyrics glamorizing the killing of slaves.

These slaves were fighting for the British in exchange for their freedom. They had tried this with America only to be betrayed in the Revolutionary War. Frances Key sees them as treasonous and enemies of the state deserving slaughter, traitors fighting to be liberated from bondage of about 200 years at that time.

So as we fast-forward to the present and witness the National Anthem being used to protest racism and police brutality. It is a fitting platform for protest. Like the war that inspired the Star Spangled Banner, the flag will survive this current peaceful debate and conversation. Mutual respect and understanding will hopefully emerge from this controversy.

Likewise, the loudest critics who make statements like “leave the country if you do not like it,” as if somehow Kaepernick must be satisfied with the status quo might begin to respect the views of others. Should he have no concern and be thankful he was adopted or satisfied with his personal wealth and accept society as it is?  The attitude of those so offended by his actions assume it is more their country then his. Should not those who can stand for our flag and beam with pride understand the need for those that do not feel that pride? Why would they not want the same for those who do not feel the pride? They cannot simply fake it to keep the peace.

The underlying message is the indictment that blacks and other racial minorities in America can reside in America as citizens, but with a lesser claim of ownership. Criticism or challenging America with regard to values such as equality and justice is frowned upon or seen as un-American.

Making a more perfect union is not always a popular endeavor when society’s shortcomings are being exposed. The denial and lack of regret shown by many with regard to these police shootings really exposes the different realities people are experiencing and their inability to empathize with others who are experiencing something different such as these police shootings. The perception justice is not equally applied continues to prevail in affected communities adding to the frustration and outrage.