After Colin Kaepernick silently kneeled in protest during the national anthem, there was no shortage of media coverage and individuals weighing in on the issue. One of them was President Trump, who was so personally offended by Kaepernick’s symbolic and peaceful protesting that he even called him a “son of a b–” during an interview he gave. It’s ironic that Trump and his supporters, who champion the slogan “Make America Great Again,” cannot tolerate criticism of the same country when it comes from a black man.

Veterans, of which Trump is not, have even spoken out to defend Kaepernick and his right to free speech. The first amendment guarantees the right to freedom of speech in our democracy, and Kaepernick was simply exercising his right to call attention to a prevalent issue. The issue at the time was the racial injustice present in the treatment of minorities, especially African Americans, by members of law enforcement and other individuals in positions of power.

Trump, however, as well as many others, believed that kneeling for the flag is unpatriotic and disrespectful. If we are going to talk about true disrespect to the flag, we should turn to the flag codes. The flag codes are important because they are a list of what is and is not acceptable when it comes to the flag, and essentially debunks Trump’s entire argument that his actions are disrespectful. Nowhere in the document does it state that you must stand for the flag or that it is disrespectful not to. However, it does say is that the print of the American flag should not be put on clothing, or used for advertisements, among other things. According to the codes, the actions of Kaepernick are in no way shape or form “unpatriotic” or “disrespectful” to the flag.

Another group that people believe are being disrespected by Kaepernick’s actions are veterans and active duty service members. While it’s true that brave servicemen and women volunteer to fight and die to protect the freedoms of this country, there is another group of people who were forced to come to this land and work and bleed and sweat and cry to build this country up to where it is now. African Americans were brought over as slaves and to this day are treated as less than and are not given nearly as much credit and respect as they deserve. So while it’s important to honor and respect those who willingly fight and make sacrifices, it’s equally as important to honor and respect those who were not given a choice, and to fight for respect and safety for them too. America was built on the backs of slaves on the the ground of slaughtered Native Americans.

Racism and inequality are always a sensitive topic to talk about. It’s easier for the people that remain unaffected by it to simply ignore it. The murder of unarmed black men and the lack of prosecution and justice for their families is disrespectful. Protesting that is not. This nation is a “melting pot” and if it is to be truly “great again,” we must address the systems of inequality and oppression that are in place right now and work to overcome them. We must create an environment, not where everyone has to stand for the flag, but where everyone wants too.

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