The Privilege of Standing for the Anthem

The national anthem has been in and out of news since Colin Kaepernick, former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, began kneeling while it played before NFL games two years ago. While Kaepernick’s original intention was to call attention to the Black Lives Matter movement, the simple act of kneeling quickly became a bigger controversy than the violence he was protesting. Politicians and football fans alike responded angrily, calling the protests ‘un-patriotic’ and ‘shameful’ because they disrespected those who died to protect the flag and the anthem.

That is just false. Those who died overseas also did not die to protect the flag or the anthem––they died to protect the rights guaranteed in our country’s Constitution. This includes the right to protest, making the act inherently patriotic. In fact, I cannot think of a more respectful or peaceful show of protest.

So why do we continue to call those protesting “baboons?” These issues have divided our society, and kneeling is just the tip of the iceberg. We’re experiencing a collective moment in which this misunderstanding about what is ‘patriotic’ is not only effecting the present––but also the past. There are lived experiences that are being called into question, and this is because of privilege. Those with white skin have special privileges––and they’re.

If you’re a person of color, you know what this privilege looks like because you have lived in this society where skin color still matters. For example, if you’ve never been on the receiving end of a second glance while doing something as harmless as getting a soda at your favorite corner store, you’re privileged. If you have never feared for your life during a routine traffic stop, you’re privileged. Color matters––it just does––and those who claim they don’t see color are living in a fantasy world. In this world, people are still being killed solely because of their melanin. This is the entire point of Kaepernick’s kneeling: the police are disproportionately killing people of color. In fact, it’s been proved that black Americans are twice as likely to be killed unarmed as white people. That is privilege in action.

Then it would make sense that the predominately white communities are where most of this outrage about kneeling continues to come from. Of course they have no idea what Colin Kaepernick has actually called attention to because they choose to not see color. They live surrounded and protected by the privileges afforded to them. This privilege extends into nearly every part of our lives, but the worst act would be to deny your own privilege. This only invalidates the lived experiences of those who have suffered and continue to suffer as a result of these racial injustices.

Standing does not mean you love your country more than someone who is kneeling. Standing means you haven’t experienced the inequalities others have because of the color of your skin, because if you had, you’d kneel.