What Does It Mean To Be A Patriotic American?
The U.S. national anthem before an NFL game is a common scene, except in this case, there’s one player who’s taken a knee. On a field with members of the military standing in salute and the audience on their feet, Colin Kaepernick is kneeling.
Kaepernick is the San Francisco 49ers quarterback.
He told reporters he was protesting the societal wrongdoings against African-Americans and minorities in the United States.
Many other players have followed Kaepernick in his protest. The gesture has been adapted by other professional athletes and has even spread to high schools.
But there are a number of people who disagree with Kaepernick’s actions.
Most recent, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who called the move “dumb and disrespectful.”
So what is the line between protest and patriotism?
According to Forrest Crawford, professor and former assistant to the president for Institutional Diversity at Weber State University, the debate between patriotism and protest isn’t new.
“You know, we make a lot of fundamental assumptions about how we think Americans ought to be," Crawford said. "In other words, we assume that the type of patriotism that I display is part of a prescriptive way in which everybody ought to act and behave in a free society. And it’s never been that way and I don’t see that it’s playing out that way even today.”
Jason Gilmore, professor of Global Communication at Utah State University agrees.
“And it’s interesting in a country that’s based around freedom of speech and freedom of choice and these things, that we would then require others to be patriotic in the ways that we see patriotism," Gilmore said. "So you have to be patriotic the way I’m patriotic. And that actually, it doesn’t align with the principles of this country, which is that people should be able to chose their own way into things, right? And that they should be able to express their patriotism in different ways.”
Gilmore said this kind of protest is actually part of a bigger movement happening across the U.S.
“My reaction was that this was going to be met with a lot of backlash. That said, it is kind of tapping into a larger social movement that has transpiring and has been transpiring for a number of years now," Gilmore said.
Crawford said he wants to see the conversation continue.
“I think that we have to really trust even our inept discourse with each other. Because I think that in that inept discourse at least we try to fight to find the words or find the disposition for understanding," he said.
***This report is part of NPR and UPR’s A Nation Engaged project focusing on the upcoming elections.