#ConversationsWithCecilia: Colin Kaepernick Doesn't Need Your Approval To Be American
Cecilia Smith Austin | 9/1/2016, 2:02 p.m.
My faithful readers will recall my thoughts that I felt as if “America has slipped into an alternate universe.” Well, I’m still waiting on the Avengers to fix this and so far neither Cap nor T’Challa have appeared to save the day. Yes I’ve finally accepted that we are stuck with this, a year in which we question whether Hispanic Americans are “rapists and criminals” while trying our hardest to collectively ignore elephants in the room like police brutality and racism.
It’s a beast that San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick could no longer ignore, citing both as reasons why he chose to remain seated recently during the national anthem. Since then, predictable controversy has ensued, drawing everyone from veterans to law enforcement into the fray. Reviews of his stance have been mixed, gathering both praise, scorn and even blatant racism with slurs being hurled at him via Social Media.
Then there’s the San Francisco Police Department, whose union demanded an apology while offering none of their own for employing the officers that were caught texting about the very citizens they took an oath to protect and serve; calling Hispanics “beaners” and referring to Blacks as “savages” and “n*ggers.” As someone that truly believes that police officers and emergency personnel have a near thankless job, it makes me even more adamant that those disrespecting the badge should have it removed.
Others have employed not so subtle digs at his upbringing by questioning “how was he oppressed” when in fact he was adopted and raised by a white family. For the record, “being adopted by a white family” is not the equivalent of hitting the lottery, but it does prove that denying the existence of white privilege doesn’t mean that it’s not implied. His brown skin doesn’t suddenly disappear while in the presence of those fairer than him. This is not Harry Potter and Kaepernick is not a bifocals wearing wizard with an invisibility cloak. Being Black is the first (and only) thing that some will see when looking at him, no matter how many TDs he throws or the amount of money left in his bank account.
Before this week many of us couldn’t tell you why we recite the national anthem, outside of the common explanation of a display of patriotism. But what exactly defines being a “true patriot?” Being a member of the military? Or is it as simple singing your heart out during any rendition of “America the Beautiful?”
For many minorities it’s a loaded question that requires walking a fine. On one hand, there’s the incessant demand to display loyalty to America, land of the free and home of the brave. On the other there’s American history, which hasn’t always been kind to the minorities that helped build this nation.
Penned by Francis Scott Key, our national anthem includes his disdain for “the hireling and slave,” a reference to the slaves that defected to aid the British against a then fledgling United States. In 1931 Congress and President Herbert Hoover designated it as the official song of the land; but it hasn’t always been celebrated. As baseball legend Jackie Robinson explained in his biography, “I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world. In 1972, in 1947, at my birth in 1919, I know that I never had it made.”