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Trump Misses the Point (again)

Isabel Root, Staff Writer

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Here are some things I like about America: we are not a military state nor a dictatorship; freedom of symbolic speech is a protected right that is admirably exercised; and political participation is encouraged within citizens. Based on these principles, Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling is anything but ‘un-American,’ as our President and his white nationalist supporters claim. Reignited by an assault of tweets from @realDonaldTrump, Kaepernick’s protest against racism is once again being falsely rebranded into a protest against America, specifically disrespecting military service members. Whether the President and his supporters like it or not, his statements are going to be viewed by millions and be viewed as important due to his political position. Despite Trump’s demands that kneeling players be fired, the act itself is a “respectful gesture” like “a flag flown at half mast,” according to player Eric Reid who knelt with Kaepernick.
Pledging allegiance is not and should not be what determines how American someone is, nor is it an automatic indicator of military respect since it is a flag of a democratic nation, not one of a military dictatorship. Recognizing the societal issues in America and utilizing a form of peaceful protest in an effort to make this country better is about as American as you can get since you are actually participating in the evolution of the nation rather than insisting on its perfection. Some claim that the pledge is an act of unity among citizens which could be interpreted as an appreciation of how far America has come, rather than a blind endorsement of the nation’s state. While this definition is optimistic, and perhaps for some good Americans true, the fact that our President’s campaign slogan was “Make America Great Again” indicates that a substantial amount of Americans believe that the civil rights movements, environmental awareness, and political movements that have taken us to where we are today have only made America worse.
So why are they so upset about a black man kneeling during the pledge? Is it because it raises awareness about the institutionalized racism and police brutality that has resulted in many innocent deaths and struggles for African Americans across the nation? Whether the ignorant mob realizes it or not, that is what Kaepernick and other players are protesting. By attacking and misinterpreting the meaning of protest, they are distracting from the validity of race issues in America and disrespecting the lives lost due to hatred. In kneeling in front of a crowd of thousands and on the television screens of thousands more, Kaepernick uses his position as an NFL football player to more effectively draw attention to a pressing issue in America. Racism in America is not something that should be swept under the rug and avoided, or treated as an imaginary problem. As a society, it is important that we are aware of injustices in order to make a better America. The argument that American politics has a time and place is completely invalid when applied to football; if you can pledge allegiance  in a stadium, you can remind those that racism still exists in America.

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