As more athletes from a variety of sports and entertainers have started to participate in taking a knee or making statements about the continued oppression of Black Americans and police brutality in the United States, we need to examine how opposition to freedom of speech and to agency of individuals marks a desire to go back to the time of slavery.
In August of 2016, Colin Kaepernick decided to protest the continued oppression of Black Americans and police brutality. For the first couple of games, no one even noticed but it did eventually gain attention. Regardless of the fact that he stated what his reasoning for kneeling was it has been twisted into a nightmare of forced nationalism. A forced nationalism that has managed to spread to classrooms.
People have argued that sports weren’t the place for such a statement. There were personal attacks on Kaepernick from San Francisco Police. Some players started to join him, but he remained the focus of the ire of those who decided that what he really intended to do was to spit on the sacrifice of soldiers who have died for this country. This intentional reframing of the issue eventually led to Kaepernick being fired from the 49ers and he is now apparently unhireable. At the time of this writing, he remains unsigned by any team in the NFL.
Everyone and their momma has chimed in and has chosen sides. But we have come to a point in the movement where we have the Government trying to determine who should be punished for not standing for the National Anthem. The same people that have used the time slotted for the National Anthem to go buy their beer or to run to the bathroom if they are at the stadium or to make snacks and go to the bathroom if they were at home are now the foot soldiers in a propaganda war willing to shout down or shout racial slurs at anyone not standing for the Anthem. It’s amazing to see people who will swear they aren’t racist immediately resort to calling the players or attendees not standing for the anthem n*ggers. The irony is lost on many.
The ongoing heated debate was given new life this past weekend when Steph Curry and other players for the Golden State Warriors indicated that they may decline the invite to the White House, which of course drew the anger of the President, who decided to rescind the invitation before the team made an official decision. This shouldn’t have been a complete surprise to the White House as there was already discussion that, regardless of who won the championship, the winning team would not make the traditional White House visit.
Let’s not mistake what we are really seeing here. We are getting a good look at how many everyday Americans are okay with slavery. Not only do they want to silence the freedom of speech for Black Americans and other people of color, they want to FORCE them to behave in a certain manner or be punished. Yes, that is slavery; that is what you are doing when you believe that anyone living in this country should venerate her regardless of how this country has treated them or people like them. When there is a demand from a segment of this country that being born in this country makes you forever indebted to her falsified greatness and you should be forced to show reverence we are watching how a slavery mentality still exists and has only morphed in the way it functions. Sports is not the only place we see a country that is comfortable with the idea of slavery.
We have an unjust legal system that makes sure that people of color, most notably black people, are the largest populations in our prisons where they can be extorted for their labor.
But we are watching the real America at work. The required, unquestioned, loyalty of marginalized people to honor a country that continues to kill people of marginalized communities. What part of that is considered freedom?
We are witnessing how propaganda can cause people to behave against their most dearly held beliefs as long as it can be framed in a manner that makes them believe that somehow fellow human beings are the enemy to all that is good and pure. We are witnessing how hypocrisy can be enveloped in a buffer of patriotism. We have come to another point in one of the most tumultuous times in this country where you have to choose a side. A time where stating that you aren’t racist or that you believe in equal rights is not enough. It is not enough to simply state you aren’t racist, your actions must follow suit of that which you say you believe. Are you living your values or are you just giving lip service to an ideology as a shortcut for being a productive part of what you say you “stand” for?
You are determining and displaying whether you believe that all Americans deserve equality or you think showing allegiance to a flag and what it is supposed to stand for is more important than the lives that have been mistreated, abused, and/or killed under that flag and what it has actually stood for. If your stance is that everyone should honor the flag or they are traitors to the country, but you are okay with the country betraying its citizens then you have chosen your side and you are the one who no longer demonstrates the lauded values of this country.
Author’s Note: This was written early on Sunday, September 24, 2017, before any of the football games began.
Find Pamela on Twitter @goddesspamela