Photo courtesy of Brook Ward via Flickr Creative Commons. 

To kneel or not to kneel? It depends where you “stand” on racism.

The NFL national anthem protest is the latest example of how America is more divided than ever. Half the country believes that kneeling during the national anthem is disrespectful to our military; the other half swears it has nothing to do with our military.

So who’s right and who’s wrong? Perhaps we should look to the man who started it all: 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

In a 2016 interview with the NFL Media, Kaepernick clarified that his choice to kneel was about racial inequality.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick explained. “To me, 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.”

Straight from the horse’s mouth: it’s not intended to disrespect the men and women who gave their lives for this country.

Kaepernick’s teammate, Eric Reid, reiterated this point during an interview he gave this past Sunday. As a fellow participant in the NFL national anthem protest, Reid is a qualified representative on what the movement stands for.

“I’ve spoken to you all previously about controlling the narrative. And that’s what we’ll do,” Reid told reporters in the locker room after the 49ers’ loss. “If I need to say it every time ya’ll ask me, this is not about the military, this is not about the flag, this is not about the anthem.

“My mother served in the armed forces,” Reid continued. “Three of my uncles served in the armed forces. In fact, my mom would have went to the Persian Gulf War if she wasn’t pregnant with me. I have the utmost respect for the military, for the anthem, for the flag. So I will say that every time ya’ll interview me. This is about systemic oppression that has been rampant in this country for decades on top of decades.”

The fact that it’s controversial is perhaps part of the point; one must do something “egregious” in order to get people talking about racism. So if the success of the movement is being measured in terms of raising awareness, it’s been highly effective thus far.

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Jane is a twenty-something Bostonian who is passionate about social justice, art, and anything else that strikes her fancy. She likes long walks by the beach (really!), Chinese takeout, and learning new things.