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To Stand or Not to Stand for the Anthem: Kaep Says No, What Do You Say?

September 1, 2016 by Herbert Daughtry

“I will continue to sit, I will continue to stand with the people who are being oppressed. To me, this is something that has to change. When there is significant change, and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”

“There are lot of things going on that are unjust, and people are not being held accountable for. And, that’s something that needs to change. This country stands for freedom, liberty, and justice for all. And, it’s not happening for all right now.”

“There is police brutality. People of color have been targeted by police so that a large part, and their government officials are put in place. That’s something the country has to change. There are things which we can do to hold them more accountable, to make those standards higher.”

“I am not going to stand up and show pride for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football, and it will be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the streets, and people are getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

“This is not something I’m going to run by anybody. I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people who are oppressed. If they take away football and my endorsements from me, I know that I have stood up for what is right.”

Who do you think uttered the abovementioned statements? Were they uttered by activists, Black Lives Matter leaders, revolutionaries, radicals, or militants? No, they were stated by a star quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers professional football team named Colin Kaepernick whose salary is somewhere around $126 million. I wish I had the words to adequately express my admiration and appreciation to Mr. Kaepernick for his courage, concern, compassion, empathy, intelligence, liberalism, and willingness to sacrifice all of it. What rare, superlative courage!

Here is a young millionaire – only 28 years old. Apparently, he’s enjoying life and his life’s work. Yet, he’s prepared to risk it all for others, for his people – and, by extension, all people. And, knowing that his own people may not understand , and even worse, join his critics. What courage! What audacity! What love!

By his attitude, articulations, and actions, he has exhibited the highest American values – freedom of speech, courage, compassion, and charity for the disadvantaged, oppressed as stated at the base of the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” He has demonstrated the above qualities which I believe the overwhelming majority of Americans and even some of his critics have only verbalized.

I will take it even further. Mr. Kaepernick’s concerns for the least, excluded, and abused are consistent with God’s prioritization in the Judeo-Christian scriptures:

“Let justice roll on like rivers, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” (Amos 5:24).

“Take care of the widows and orphans” (James 1:27).

In Jesus’ inaugural sermon in Luke 4:18-19, He put the poor at the top of his list of the needy: ” The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Significantly, Mr. Kaepernick has shown the world what it means to express true religion and Americanism. Why can’t people – Euroethnics, in particular – hear and feel the pain, agony, and concerns for the downtrodden that the protestors are experiencing, or even, paradoxically, their concerns for America? What about the rest of us? In addition to the critics, there are those who seek another option that is more acceptable. They agree with Mr. Kaepernick’s point, but it is the wrong method. In other words, for whatever reason, they want to have it both ways.

They should remember the African proverb, “If you walk in the middle of the road, you can get hit from both ways.” I would pose a question to them, “If you agree with the point Mr. Kaepernick is making, what is your method to express your disapproval, and what are you doing about it?” And, how critical are we of the super patriots who wear the colors of the flag or replicas as undergarments or bikinis, or draped around the shoulders? In a word, the colors are worn as pieces of garments on every parts of our body and hung carelessly on many walls.

It could be argued that the protestors have more or as much love and patriotism for America as their critics. If it were not so, why would they sacrifice so much, or even make the ultimate sacrifice. Many of them – indeed, most of them – could just enjoy their fame and fortune like most people in their positions. Something drives them.

Again, I ask, “Why can’t we appreciate them?” We don’t have to agree, but we can seek to understand their positions and causes. If they are calling attention to a problem, let’s get together and fix the problem.

Mr. Kaepernick comes in the spirit of Paul Robeson; Jackie Robinson; Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,; Tommie Smith and John Carlos – the 1968 Gold and Bronze Medal Olympic Winners, respectively; and, Muhammad Ali. They took a stand and paid dearly, but in the end, they were rewarded. Books, films, and monuments were raised to their memories. It borders on hypocrisy. We kill the prophets and protestors and praise them when they are dead. Bishop F.D. Washington used to say, “People lie on you when you are living, and lie for you when you’re dead.”

Muhammad Ali is our most recent example. Good, ole patriotic Americans castigated him, took his crown, and jailed him. Years later, the world honored him and even allowed him to carry the Olympian torch. The high and mighty paid homage at his funeral.

Would you believe it? Jackie Robinson said, in his autobiography, that he would not salute the flag. He wrote, “Today, as I look back on that first World Series, I must tell you that it was Mr. Branch Rickey’s drama in that I was only a principle actor. As I write this, twenty years later, I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag. I know that I am a Black man in a white world in 1972, 1947, and at my birth in 1919. I know that I never had it made.”

It could be argued that the protestors helped America to become, in many ways, a great country. They have always challenged America to “live out the true meaning of its creed” – “to honor its promissory note to all its citizens.” And, why do protestors protest? It’s because they care. The documents we cherish (i.e. the Bill of Rights) and the institutions that we prize (i.e. the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary branches of government with shared powers) were all born in protests.

Let us say to Brother Colin Kaepernick: “May God continue to bless you to endure the fiery darts of your enemies, the courage of your convictions, and the love for and of the people. Take your stand with the protestors and prophets of every age who showed the heart of God for the least in our world, who were prepared to be crucified to make all of us better.”

As the clergy, where do you stand? We will have a meeting on Tuesday, September 6, 2016 at 9:00a.m. at The House of the Lord Church (415 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217). If you can’t attend, let me know what you think. Contact me at 718.596.1991 or415@holc.org.