Down on Bended Knees: Discussing kneeling while the “Star Spangled Banner” plays with my children

October 10, 2017
The First Amendment Words written on a sidewalk.
Jen NM,

We have been taught to stand and sing along, with our hands over our heart while the “Star Spangled Banner” plays to show our love and respect for our country. This song is sung in schools, at military ceremonies, and at the beginning of sporting events. So why is this relevant today?

I am sure you all have seen the recent media coverage and Twitter comments made by the president of the United States in regard to the NFL players and owners who decided to “take a knee” or stand, locked in arms during the singing of the national anthem. These players and owners did this to show their support for former NFL player, Colin Kaepernick, and to raise awareness about social and racial injustices in America.

Colin Kaepernick is the former quarterback for the San Francisco 49’ers. Over a year ago, Kaepernick first decided to sit at a pre-season game during the national anthem to protest police brutality. This act did not receive much attention. After his third pre-season game, he and his former teammate, Eric Reid, consulted with a former NFL player and retired Green Beret, Nate Boyer. After that meeting, they agreed to use their platforms as professional athletes in the NFL to speak for those who are voiceless. They kneeled during the national anthem as a form of peaceful protest. They agreed to kneel because it is seen as a respectful gesture. This is when the backlash began. Once Kaepernick became a free agent, he was not offered another NFL contract.  Many people believe it is a direct result of his open stance and kneeling during the playing of the national anthem. To this day, he still does not have a contract offer.

Many Americans, including our 45th president, have come out and said hateful and demeaning things about Kaepernick for this act. Not one NFL team has offered Kaepernick a contract and America has divided and taken sides on this issue. The debate has turned into a question of respect or disrespect toward our country and our veterans, while losing the true focus of his peaceful protest: the social and racial injustices to people of color in America.

Our veterans have fought to protect our right to freedom of speech, press, religion, and to peacefully assemble. I want my children to understand that they have rights that should be exercised. I also want them to understand that America has a larger issue of systemic racism that is embedded in all social institutions, structures, and social relations within our society.  As we see an increase in protests and media coverage surrounding the death and violence towards unarmed Black men and women killed by offenders who are rarely convicted, emotions will continue to rise. That is why Kaepernick took a knee. Bringing about attention and implementing change is the only way America will be able to overcome our deeply-rooted and scarred past as a nation.  Malcolm X once said, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything!” and I want to make sure my children understand what they will stand for.