As a Black Veteran, I Always Stand for the Flag. But I Understand Why Colin Kaepernick Doesn’t.

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Media Outlet: Vox

Theodore Johnson wrote for Vox about Colin Kaepernick:

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem last night before his team’s nationally televised football game against the LA Rams. This was of little surprise. He made headlines last month by refusing “to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color” before a preseason game, and he’s been repeating his protest ever since. Others have joined in, to include several NFL players from various teams, Seattle Reign soccer star Megan Rapinoe, and three West Virginia University Tech female volleyball players.
Kaepernick has been accused of being selfish and unappreciative of the success he’s achieved. He’s been called un-American, unpatriotic, and a host of adjective-laden racial pejoratives unfit to print. I was particularly struck by the charge that his political protest for racial justice was disrespectful to the most esteemed entity in present-day American culture: the troops.
I’ve served in the military for the past two decades. For my entire life, I’ve been a black person in America. When Kaepernick decided to sit, these two identities stood toe to toe. For the first time, I felt these defining parts of my life were in direct conflict. It was as if I could only stand in solidarity with one of the two. After all, how could a military officer agree with dishonoring the flag that so many — of all races, ethnicities, genders, and religions — have died to preserve? I couldn’t. I can’t.
But how could a black man — any American, for that matter — quietly accept the racial injustice that permeates our country’s society and institutions?
I couldn’t. And I can’t.

Author:

Theodore Johnson is an Eric & Wendy Schmidt Fellow at New America. He is a national security research manager and an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy.