Founding Fathers spirit found in Kaepernick protest
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San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick's refusal to stand during a pre-season game against the Green Bay Packers set the social media world on fire.

Kaepernick, when prompted by NFL Media, explained that “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” 

“To me,” he added, “this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Was he, in my estimation, wrong to sit during the demonstration of our colors which countless men and women, of all races, have died for? Yes, absolutely. I do recognize, however, that his right to sit during our anthem – his right to freedom of speech and freedom of protest – is exactly what these men and women died for. This right is what makes us unique, what separates us from the totalitarian nations we oft-decry. The right to freedom of speech – to freely disrespect the state without fear of repercussion – is deeply American in nature.

America, despite what we are often told, is a nation unlike any other, with truly more harmonious intermingling of culture than other nations globally. Do we have a nasty history (and present) of racial injustice — absolutely. That doesn’t mean we aren’t generally better in this realm than the other nations in our economic bracket.

From 2010-2014, the World Values Survey asked residents in over 50 nations who they “would not want as neighbors.” In the United States, only 5 percent responded with “people of a different race.”

This response is far more tolerant than numerous other nations who we often place on a pedestal of racial and economic harmony. 15 percent of Germans said they wouldn’t want to a neighbor of a different race, while 22 percent of Japanese and 41 percent of Indians echoed the sentiment. Based on this chart, Anglo-American countries were by far the most tolerant – as the nations most likely to embrace a racially diverse neighbor were the United Kingdom and its former colonies, including us. Let us also not forget that we did also elect and re-elect a black man for President – both times by decisive margins.

This is not to say America doesn’t have a racist history or racist problems, but this is to say we aren’t the cesspool of racism that we are often portrayed to be.

We have issues when it comes to race and religion. Our government has a history of racist policies against minorities – specifically real estate redlining against groups including but not limited to Jews and Blacks. Our current criminal justice system targets and imprisons blacks at higher rates than whites for drug crimes, despite the fact that both races commit the crime at about the same frequency. A Washington Post study proclaimed that Blacks are 2.5 times as likely as Whites to be shot and killed by police. Whether this is a symptom of a larger policing issue or of a racist society can be debated, but the point of these facts is clear – we aren’t a perfect nation of racial harmony. I personally believe this utopia is unachievable due to human nature and tribalism, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try. That doesn’t mean we don’t have work to do. But, in my view, one ought to stand for the anthem out of respect for those who have died for what it is supposed to stand for – equality and freedom for all – rather than boycott it for the imperfections which pollute it.

Kaepernick, despite my personal feelings about his protest, is resolutely, well within the rights given to us by Founding Fathers to sit during the national anthem. This is a defining principle of the United States – the principle he has the right to say whatever he wants, no matter how despicable the public may see it to be. No matter how the public reacts, Kaepernick, due to the First Amendment, is undoubtedly allowed to protest, in the way that he did, without fear of government retribution Bowles, the coach of my beloved New York Jets, was asked if his players are allowed to sit during the national anthem.

Bowles wisely replied, “That’s their right. That’s what this country is about.”

The hypocrisy coming from the Right and the Republican party is mind-boggling. For a party whose platform has essentially become “rich guy complains about America,” it’s utter insanity than many within it have told Kaepernick he can’t complain about the problems of black people because he personally is rich. Why, then, can Trump effectively speak for the poor, working class white American? The same party who has embraced a slogan indicating that America is not yet great has still decided it’s reasonable to assail Kaepernick for expressing the same sentiment. The Right, it seems, is willing to vigorously defend theoretical attacks on the Second Amendment while simultaneously ignoring its predecessor.

Overall, there are productive actions to be taken to combat our numerous problems without disparaging the nation as a whole. I implore athletes and activists to adopt the position of “while I love this country and its unique freedoms, I understand that we have work to done,” rather than “I hate this country and everything that it stands for because of its racial issues.” The second, deeply counterproductive notion, is far too often expressed by those with visibility. Kaepernick, by disrespecting the flag, and those who have died for it, proclaims this ideology. While I criticize his action, I am proud to live in a nation where he has the freedom to act however he damn well pleases – without fear of government retribution. His action, while easily decried, exhibits the freedom and rights that make me proud to be an American.

Diringer Dunst is a student at Hamilton College pursuing a B.A. in World Politics. 

The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.