50 stars, 13 bars – Kaepernick takes a knee for justice

David Hayes, Herald Contributor

With the emergence of football season again, we find ourselves as a community and a nation asking this question. So, I ask again, what’s in a flag? Ours has three distinct colors displayed through fifty stars and thirteen bars. Look behind them, and there exists something more — our flag is a symbol, a symbol of America. 

The flag flies high as the national anthem triumphantly fills stadiums across the country. It flies displaying American excellence, American sacrifice, and Americans’ desire for three basic rights outlined by our founding fathers: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

As much as it symbolizes all the hope and good, it also symbolizes the bad. It symbolizes the pain that has been caused under it, the scrutiny we put onto Americans of a different background, and the years of discrimination and hate towards Americans of darker complexions. Colin Kaepernick is not afraid to remind us of this. He kneels for those still facing hate in a country that constantly praises freedom, but is reluctant to give it. He kneels to bring light to a picture that most Americans would prefer to leave in the dark. He kneels for those who hear the same anthem, but live in a different America — an America where families are torn apart and communities are broken, where a routine traffic stop often leads to the killing of young black Americans.  

On the largest stage of American culture, Kaepernick is not shying away from bringing eyes onto an important problem facing this country. Injustices exist underneath our sacred flag, and so long as Americans are subject to them, he will kneel for them. 

To ignorantly look over the bad in praise of the good is the true disservice. It’s a disservice to our flag and our anthem and what we believe they represent––justice, good, and the hope that they, together, can inspire. Our service members serve, not to protect our ignorance, but to protect the basic rights that we as Americans enjoy day after day. They serve so we can use our words and our actions in peaceful ways. They serve so any man or woman who witnesses an injustice can protest on behalf of those being stripped their rights; those rights that countless Americans have died to protect. Our life and liberty, in this country, is sacred to us and those who defend them in our stead. 

We disrespect the troops when we refuse to be open to the larger picture. When we ensure ourselves to make issue of and discredit those fellow Americans who are struggling to maintain their rights.