Colin Kaepernick is unlucky. I’ve been protesting the National Anthem for years and nobody cared
Obviously, nobody cares because I’m not a famous football player. There were several reasons for why I started my personal, unnoticed protest, but the short answer is that I just knew what Colin Kaepernick knows. The National Anthem has roots based in racism, glorifies the most war mongering aspects of United States sovereignty, and is a subtle form of mind control which is why it, or something similar, is tacked onto the start of every piece of sporting entertainment. The kind of simple entertainment people from all walks of life watch regardless of their understanding.
In a way, shunning the National Anthem was the first step on my journey to wokeness. While still far from the wokest brother on the block even today, I’m a far cry from where I used to be in terms of what the world looks like. Longtime friends will be quick to point out how much I’ve changed as my social media feeds became less about comics and movies, and more about injustice and racism. Of course, judging by how the same 8 or 9 people like my posts, they’ve all unfollowed me by now anyway.
It started on a road trip to visit a friend exiled to Amarillo, Texas to begin what would become a promising legal career. My friend Joe and I lit out from Austin in my most beautiful beater — uninsured, mature, resplendent in red with primer temples like some automotive ginger Reed Richards. An EDM head, Joe had packed some CD’s for the trip filled with ripped DJ sets from London radio. One of these DJ’s decided that rather than starting his set with dope beats that he’d rather begin his set with knowledge. This was when I first heard Nature of the Threat.
Nature of the Threat is an 8 minute anthem by Ras Kass from his 1996 debut “Soul on Ice.” Ras Kass deep dives into a rhyming chronological history of the world from a very afrocentric viewpoint. Despite being a long time fan of hip hop, I had never heard anything like it. It’s hard for sleeping people to encounter anything of substance, and even harder for them to understand it when they do. For context, freshman year of college the man now known as DJ Chorizo Funk told me I should check out two Brooklyn MCs named Mos Def and Talib Kweli; to which I responded, “Sure man, but Puff Daddy’s got a new record coming out I gotta get.” I hope that by admitting this I can finally begin the healing.
Ras Kass was the one I needed to cut through the veil I’d lived my life behind up to that point. He hit me with a view point I had never considered, angles from which I had never seen, and inconsistencies on what I’d been taught that I’d dare not consider. As Joe and I continued our journey, I had to keep rewinding this song. It had been released over a decade before I’d even heard it, but I needed to know if any of what Ras was saying was true. In this often inappropriate lyrical tour de force, there was one line in particular that put all of American patriotism on notice. And it didn’t need history or confirmation in order to make it’s point. It was a simple, and face first comparison that changed the entire way I saw my country:
That had never occurred to me before… The idea of Jewish people saluting the flag of the group that enacted a genocidal campaign to wipe them from existence is so ridiculous, it didn’t even have a home in the most absurd reaches of my rather absurd mind. Then, after hundreds of years slavery, Jim Crow, the school to prison pipeline, police brutality, rampant inequality, broken promises, shattered bodies, and the generations exploitation and plunder of my people in all our blackness, why should I feel obligated to offer my allegiance? Allegiance, like respect, can only truly be earned from those that give it freely can it not? How can I freely give something I’ve been indoctrinated to offer by years of pledges in classrooms, of standing with my hand over my heart at sporting events, and surviving the bevy of post 9/11 patriotism porn.. It had never even crossed my mind, that my allegiance was mine to give, and the fact that I’d so willingly offered it to my country of origin became an absurd idea.
So I just… stopped. I stopped covering my heart or standing at attention. I stopped saying the pledge of allegiance. I stopped singing along with patriotic songs (save for This Land Is Your Land which is the finest of satire. Thanks Woody Guthrie!). I just… stopped feeling obligated. And nobody said anything.
Since I’m not a part of the high profile slavery that is the NFL, nobody feels much like they own me or what I do. Colin Kaepernick isn’t lucky enough to live in the same obscurity that I do. He can’t do his peaceful protest on his own without being accosted by people that think they can tell him what to do or why he has to do it. Colin Kaepernick isn’t fortunate enough to be able to throw off the yoke of indoctrination without a bunch of open, closeted, and unconscious racists attacking him for doing different than what they want. Colin Kaepernick is unlucky, because he can’t just be a person that doesn’t believe in or agree with patriotic mysticism or the constant psychological warfare the US propagates on its own people, successfully living his life outside of it. But I’m lucky because I can, and I have been for a decade, and nobody cares because I’m not famous. I’m just Black.