This past week, six members of the Lady Razorbacks, the women’s basketball team from the University of Arkansas took a knee during the national anthem in an effort to protest for racial equality in America. Michelle Smith answers your most burning question about the purpose of their protest.
In my academic journey, the exact cause of the American revolution has changed based upon my teacher. Some said that it was the Boston Massacre, others pinpointed the Boston Tea Party. Personally, I think it was the Declaration of Rights and Grievances. Until then, Americans confidently identified as British citizens, but the exhaustion of the lack of power led to the writing of the Declaration. In response, British authorities wanted to put the writers to death for daring to complain about the government.
America was founded on the expression of oppression, but that vocalization is being suppressed. This past week, six members of the women’s basketball team from the University of Arkansas took a knee during the national anthem in an effort to protest for racial equality in America. My social media timelines were flooded with disapproval of the action, and the majority of the comments could fit into one of three categories:
1. Kneeling During The National Anthem Is Disrespectful To Veterans
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 45% of homeless veterans are Hispanic or African American, even though those two groups compose less than 15% of the total veteran population in America.
A large number of these displaced veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. In fact, it is estimated that 31% of Vietnam veterans and 20% of veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression.
Finally, the unemployment rate for veterans has hovered between five and seven percent over the past few years. However, those who use veterans as a defense for nonsupport of kneelers do not seem infuriated at all by the blatant disregard of veterans in America. High rates of homelessness, untreated mental illness, and unemployment are disrespectful to veterans, not exercising the Constitutional rights that they fought to protect.
When he first began protesting, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat. In response to a conversation that he had with NFL player and military veteran Nate Boyer, he opted to begin kneeling in an effort to show respect to military personnel while still protesting. After the backlash against Kaepernick began, the hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick began trending, as military personnel defended the actions of Kaepernick and argued that the goal of their service was to protect the Constitutional rights that he exercised. In its etymological essence, a protest is a solemn public testimony.
Kneeling during the anthem has a purpose, and protest can not be disassociated from purpose.
2. These Girls Are Ignorant Of What This Country Has Done For Them
This argument is usually followed by the mentioning of the abolition of slavery, the ability to vote, desegregation, and our black President. It is almost ignored that the same country was responsible for the institution of slavery, black voter suppression, segregation, Black Codes, and Jim Crow laws.
First, slavery was never eradicated. It only evolved.
Second, the black vote is still suppressed today.
Third, de facto segregation is alive and well.
Fourth, the blackness of our “black President” has continually been questioned and insulted.
Any progress made in the right direction was a result of protest by the oppressed, not an innate positive nature of American government.
3. If You Don’t Like This Country, Leave. (The “Go Back To Africa” Argument)
In response to one of my previous articles, a reader suggested that I was exaggerating the prevalence of oppression in America, and if I was so disappointed with the current state of the country, I should leave.
I was reminded of a photograph from the desegregation of Central High School, in which a demonstrator held up a sign that said “Go back to Africa, Negroes.” That call was mirrored by those who were dissatisfied by the actions of the Lady Razorbacks.
Racism is everywhere. Oppression is everywhere. Black Americans who feel oppressed could go to Africa, hypothetically speaking, but even Africa and its culture have been destroyed by European colonization.
America’s history, and its origins, are full of protests, social changes, and dissatisfaction of the current state. In fact, the entire realm of politics is built on promises of change due to vexation and discontentment. However, there is a disproportionate amount of criticism received when those critiques come from African Americans.
We do not fight for equality because of hatred, but love.
We fight for equality because we believe in America.
We fight for equality because it’s the American way.