I thought about not using the above image. I thought about not discussing Colin Kaepernick's protests. I thought about not writing anything at all. I think a lot about lots of stuff, most of which is trivial, but this feels important. The following are my thoughts on this and no one else's.
Gun violence is bad. Police brutality is bad. Racism is bad. I know, I know. I'm really going out on a limb here. These are things that many young Americans believe. Kaepernick is sharing this same belief. That is why Kaepernick is taking a knee during the national anthem. Not because he hates cops or America. Because he knows they can be better and he wants us to talk about it. The fact that he is willing to jeopardize his career and his personal safety to do something that he believes will improve this country for his fellow man is brave and commendable.
What gets tricky is when beliefs clash with symbols. The American Flag is a symbol. “The Star-Spangled Banner” is a symbol. What they represent and how they make you feel is entirely yours and yours alone. You may know a great many people who feel similarly to you, but no one can possibly feel EXACTLY the same way that you do when they look at the stars and stripes and hear the words of our nation’s anthem. Your idea of these symbols and how they represent America can be completely different from someone else’s idea. And that’s ok. THAT idea is what this country was founded on. That two disparate sides can find a way to compromise and coexist for the betterment of all.
I grew up in Buffalo, NY, in a middle-class white family with all the perks and #priveleges that entails. I have no idea what it must feel like for an African-American to see yet another story of an unarmed black man being gunned down in the streets. No one in my immediate or extended family has ever served in the military or policed the streets of a city, county, or state. I don’t know what that sacrifice makes you feel when you look at the Stars & Stripes and listen to the story of conflict that symbol survived. But to me, that song and that flag and the country that it represents is an idea that we are constantly, all of us, striving to be better. That no matter our disagreements and our struggles, we will listen to each other and work together and make compromises and keep trying. Our nation is not now, nor has it ever been, perfect. But as long as people are willing to talk to one another, we’ll keep improving. It’s only when we ignore each other and make our neighbors out to be enemies that we lose what makes us special.
I don't like bringing politics into this environment. I'm sure it's not why you come here. I'm guessing Colin Kaepernick feels the same way. I'm sure he'd like nothing more than to not have to do this anymore. It'd be easier not to do it. But some things are worth the struggle. Some things have to be said.