The National Anthem: The Ultimate Measure of Americanness

On September 11, 2016, four Miami Dolphin football players showed their support of a recent movement started by Colin Kaepernick. The racially motivated movement was started by Kaepernick after he kneeled during the pledge of allegiance, during an NFL football game. Kaepernick defended his act to kneel by stating, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color, to me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

            Actress and model Kate Upton had a few words to say about the support given by members of the Miami Dolphins. Upton took to Twitter to state, “This is unacceptable. You should be proud to be an American. Especially on 9/11 when we should support each other.” For me, Upton’s statement was highly problematic. Refusing to kneel during the pledge does not and should not make an American citizen less “American.” Upton fails to realize that the state of support shown in American varies based on an individual’s ethnicity, gender, and cultural affiliations. If “we should support each other” like she said, why was her support not voiced for the numerous African American individuals targeted by police brutality? It is interesting to observe when and for what causes celebrities choose to voice said support.

            Kaepernick is right. America was built on the oppression of African Americans. Racism is systematic and police brutality has only added energy to its encompassing fire. So, if an individual chooses not to pledge to a flag that advocates liberty and justice for all, but fails to provide these inalienable rights to ALL people, the right to protest should not be questioned.

            Francis Bellamy, author of the pledge of allegiance, had the following to say about the concept of equality, “The hard inescapable fact is that men are not born equal. Neither are they born free, but all in bonds to their ancestors and their environments . . . There are races, more or less akin to our own, whom we may admit freely, and get nothing but advantage from the infusion of their wholesome blood. But there are other races which we cannot assimilate without a lowering of our racial standard, which should be as sacred to us as the sanctity of our homes.” So, Bellamy viewed interactions with minorities as a degradation in racial standard. How can I respect a pledge of allegiance that was not built for me?

            For many individuals, such as Upton, racial prejudice is hard to understand because for them, they haven’t experienced it firsthand. The decision to kneel during the pledge does not make a citizen less American. The national anthem is not the ultimate test to determine one’s support for America. Kaepernick and football players that continue to kneel in alliance are performing their freedom to protest, freedom to protest the domestic terrorism inspired by racism. September 11 is often seen as the first act of domestic terrorism in the United States, but terrorism refers to the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims. Domestic terrorism was a threat against minorities long before September 11. All forms of said terrorism should be recognized.

            So Ms. Upton, before you attempt to condemn those who are voicing their beliefs as you suggested they should by saying, “Have every right to protest&should stand up for beliefs,” please recognize the systematic oppression Blacks have faced since the ends of time. America was built on oppression and that is not something that should be ignored due to dedication to a pledge that failed to represent Blacks from its initiation.