I wrote back in July about the need for people interested in living in a united society to listen to one another.

Specifically referenced were issues the black community has encountered recently. I wrote, "When a person of color is telling you that they feel uncomfortable, that they feel scared going through everyday activities, we can listen to them. We can believe them."

Recently, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick caught the ire of much of the nation for refusing to stand during the national anthem. "I am not going to stand up and show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick said.

So, Kaepernick spoke. He took a controversial stance, hopefully knowing full well that it would not be a popular one in many circles.

But, did we listen?

The responses have been plentiful. And while many seem to stand with Kaepernick, or at least support his right to peaceful protest, many others have not, and the vitriol spewed toward him has been strong.

As is usually the case in instances like this, the story tends to focus on the act rather than the message. Your Facebook timeline is filled with friends who have opinions on the matter, but most center on the level of respect — or lack thereof — inherent in the act of not standing for the anthem.

But, why is Kaepernick doing this? That's what I'm most interested in. We don't have to wonder, because Kaepernick has told us why.

"There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder," Kaepernick said.  

We don't hear that, though, do we? We see a man, a person of color, "disrespecting" the flag and we react to that, rather than the reason for the act.

Some have said that Kaepernick is merely seeking out attention, but keep in mind this only came to light when he answered a question about it from a media member.

Whether or not Colin Kaepernick — or anyone, for that matter — stands or sits for the national anthem is of absolutely no interest to me. I do not care, not one bit.

What I do care about, though, is systemic racism and decades — nay, centuries — of policies and attitudes that actively work against a large portion of our population.

That's what Kaepernick is saying. But, we're not listening, because we never do.

The national anthem in its full version contains not-so-subtle references to slavery and was written by someone who probably wouldn't fit into today's society very well. We've never really given it a second thought. It's something that occurs before major happenings, usually sporting events, but not often do we think about the roots of such things.

Kaepernick attempted to shine some light on that and issues plaguing our current society.

All most people saw, however, was a guy sitting down when others stood. This is how change happens. Someone says, "Hey, something isn't right about this." Then, when pointed out, the rational among us think, "You know what, you're right. Something is off here."

At least, that's the way it should happen. I fear, though, that the big picture will continue to elude us, as it always seems to.

Contact Managing Editor Adam Parkhouse at aparkhouse@thenewsdispatch.com or 1-219-214-4170.


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