The American Flag Represents More Than Freedom
To kneel or not to kneel. That is the question. On Sunday September 24th, in response to President Trump’s comments regarding athletes who kneel during the national anthem NFL teams across America either knelt or stayed in their locker rooms during the singing of the national anthem. Just over one year ago Colin Kaepernick, then quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, began to kneel during the national anthem to bring attention to violence towards African Americans by police. Many Americans were angered by his actions and felt that he was disrespecting the flag and America by kneeling during the national anthem. As a direct result of his protest, Kaepernick is no longer in the NFL as no team will offer him a contract even though he is qualified to be at least a second string quarterback in the league. However, with the majority of the NFL either kneeling or staying in the locker room during the national anthem many in America are outraged only this time worse than a year again. Again, people disagree with the act of kneeling because they say it disrespects the flag and what it represents which is freedom. But is freedom all that it represents?
First let’s define what a flag is. A flag is a piece of cloth or similar material, typically oblong or square, attachable by one edge to a pole or rope and used as the symbol or emblem of a country or institution or as a decoration during public festivities. So a flag represents or is a symbol for either a country or an institution. We all know what a country is but what about an institution. An institution is an established law, practice, or custom. Obviously the American flag represents the country of America but what institutions does the American flag represent? How many times have you heard the statement, “This country was built on freedom!” Yes, it is true America was built on the practice and custom of freedom as people where able to leave their European or Asian country and settle in America. But what too is true is freedom was not the only institution America was built on.
America was also built on three other institutions: stealing, displacement, and murder. Let’s not forget America wasn’t a country just waiting to be inhabited. There were natives already on which would be come known as America when those overseas came to settle it. These natives were the rightful owners of this land as they were the first inhabitants of said land. But what happened to them? They were murdered, stripped of their land, and forced on reservations. So if the flag represents freedom it also represents what happened to the Native Americans. And let’s not forget the other institution America was built on.
The country of America was also built on the institution of slavery. America was literally built on the backs of African slaves. So if the American flag represents that on which it was founded on how does that not include slavery? How does that not include murder, stealing, and displacement. How is it that the flag only represents the good parts of America?
It’s no secret that I’m not a Trump supporter. But I understand why there are people who support him. They support trump because he is more than his stupid, mistimed tweets. If you only look at the negative parts of a person you are going to come to the conclusion that they are bad. And if you only look to the positive aspects of America you are going to conclude that everything is fine in America.
Here’s another thing about America being built on freedom. While it is true America was built on freedom it is also true that America wasn’t built on freedom for all. It was built on freedom for whites. Not for Native Americans. Not for African Americans. Not for Latin Americans. Not for Asian Americans. And that’s the reason people are kneeling. Not because they hate America. Not because they don’t appreciate the military and its sacrifices. But because America citizens don’t all experience the same types of freedom. In America, the freedoms you experience are determined by your race. As messed up as that sounds it’s undoubtedly the truth.
One solution I’ve heard presented is that people should protest the police rather than the flag. This is not a viable solution as black people are being killed for complying with police. Why are black people to believe protesting the police directly be any better? I’ve also heard people be mad that million dollar athletes are protesting. Since when did income have anything to do with activism? Let’s not act like only those without seven figure bank accounts are allowed to fight injustice.
I understand it’s not comfortable watching people kneel during the national anthem. For as long as we remember we’ve been taught that you stand whenever the flag is presented or the national anthem sung. However, issues of race are not getting better they are getting worse and those directly affected must be careful how they protest. Kneeling is a silent but more importantly peaceful way to say people are hurting, people are being treated unjustly, and people are dying. Above all else, what we need to realize is that what the flag represents is based on nothing more than personal opinion. Yes, to you the American flag may represent freedom and all that is good in America but that’s not what it represents to every American. Only when people realize this will people kneeling during the flag not be viewed as a person attack on freedom or America. Let’s not push our beliefs and ideals on others. Let’s not take a peaceful protest so personally that we distance ourselves from people who need to be heard. And let’s not value a piece of cloth more than a race of people.