By Jaheer Jones
jtjones@csbsju.edu

Kneeling is neither disrespectful, nor the point.

When something happens in the world, people view that and remember that occurrence through their own lens. Even when we try to be as objective as possible, we still live and perceive life based on our experiences. When things get controversial we tend to lose objectivity and just pick a side, but that is
often what derails us from the true issue, just as it has in this situation.

Recently, more and more NFL players have been kneeling during the national anthem, some for the same reason as Colin Kaepernick, others in response to Donald Trump. Despite some NFL players directly referring to Trump’s comments when asked about their decision to kneel, this protest was never about him, the flag or the military. Its purpose is to address the many injustices in this country as well as the oppression of black and brown people.

Not only is kneeling a reverent symbol in many different cultures, it did not interrupt anyone during the anthem. Whenever someone of color brings attention to an issue on a national scale, the silent majority will try to find a way to subdue their voice. The pseudo-patriots who are distraught because some people choose not to stand during the anthem ignore the true meaning of the protest.

The protest does not disrespect men and women of the military. In fact, when that argument is made the proponent usually forgets the soldiers who come home and are oppressed. Ethnic minorities make up 40 percent of the military. These men and women are marginalized in this country every day by the exact things Kaepernick was protesting. People like to make this protest about the veterans to derail the conversation from the issue at hand. The military fights for our rights to be free, however; we often choose to treat each other wrong with that freedom.

The flag and the national anthem are symbols and symbols have different meanings for different people. To many Americans, the flag and anthem mean freedom, justice and liberty. But to others, it means oppression and a system that has historically disenfranchised them.

In the U.S. we have a hard time separating our country’s ideals from its reality. If
someone said the United States was built on racism and tyranny, you would probably be offended because we’ve been sold America’s ideals and not its reality. Not only did we take this land by force and genocide, but, when we established ourselves as a country, people owned people. 41 out of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, our forefathers, owned slaves. The men that declared all men were created equal and deserved to be treated and  respected as such didn’t live that way themselves. This isn’t to demonize what good the U.S. has done for the world and for Americans, but until we address the issues for what they truly are, we will never make true progress as a nation.

This article cannot address everything about the implications of the protest let alone the issues we face as a nation, but it can start a conversation. The national anthem is a symbol of the ideals we strive to achive. By players taking a knee, we are reminded of the reality that injustices still occur in the country in which we live.

This is the opinion of Jaheer Jones, SJU junior