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Social Justice

In Defense of Colin Kaepernick

San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, has made my heart happy. Not because of his athletic ability, immeasurable talent or wealth, but because of his unapologetic stance on not standing for the Star-Spangled Banner. An anthem whose third verse declares:

No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

“I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag.” These were the very words not uttered by Colin Kaepernick, but noted by baseball legend Jackie Robinson in his autobiography. It never ceases to amaze me the selective praise given to athletes of color, and especially those who stand against injustice.

Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the national anthem is justified, as is one’s decision to stand. However, this seems to be of greater displeasure and disappointment because of numerous false assumptions. Yes, he is a black NFL quarterback and grew up with “privilege” to a degree, but not once has he mentioned being against the military or police. Instead, Kap is for justice. If you don’t believe me, you can YouTube the interview he gave.

“I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag.” These were the very words not uttered by Colin Kaepernick, but noted by baseball legend Jackie Robinson in his autobiography.

Black athletes are endlessly applauded for their abilities on the field, but are often criticized and silenced for their stance on injustice and society. Many want controlled robots and crafted spokesmen and role models. They’re basically told, “shut up and play.” Despite this criticism, Kap has chosen to take a stand and force attention and conversation.

On August 30th, 2016 the empty comments of Jerry Rice, Ben Rothlesberger, Tiki Barber, Drew Brees, Hines Ward, Rodney Harrison, Tony Stewart and others baffled me. From comments such as, “he’s not black” by Rodney Harrison and, “his method is wrong” by Drew Brees further emphasize the vitality of this moment. Yet these same athletes sat quietly or sit idle on issues affecting the communities in which they reside or play. Mr. Brees, where was your voice during the killing of Alton Sterling or the Jena Six previously?

Colin Kaepernick’s actions shed light on the fact of privilege, white privilege, and apathy. How can one say, “his cause may be right, but his timing and method are wrong?” The timing is never good for a movement and its method will never meet the satisfaction of all.

LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony made a great effort during the ESPYs, but the stance of Colin Kaepernick takes it one step further and demands that we—all Americans—take a closer look at the apathy of our neighbors and the destructive history and present of the “United” States of America.

Kaepernick will be celebrated years from now as are Ali, King, Malcolm, Robinson and numerous others, even though they were mocked, demonized and dehumanized during their stands. So, one must ask the question, “How is a man wrong for expressing his freedom and fighting for the freedom of others?”

Just as this stance is not conservative, neither was the stance of aforementioned groundbreakers. Just as this stance is not conservative, neither is the implementation of monumental societal change. And just as this stance is not conservative, neither was the life of Jesus Christ. So, hide not behind faith and privilege, instead stand against injustice.

I don’t have all the answers, but Mr. Kaepernick you are not the issue.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

—Colin Kaepernick

This article originally appeared on jayboydii.tumblr.com.

By Jamar Boyd II

Jamar is a graduate of Georgia Southern University '16.​ His work on campus has been highlighted in the Georgia Southern University newspapers and student run magazines. Jamar was the initial feature in the series entitled "Black Stories Matter" in The George Anne, stemming from his summer 2015 experience speaking in Charleston, SC, on race in America and race and racism at Georgia Southern University. An avid reader and writer, his work can be read on his ​blog.