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A Salute to Service

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

In week 10 of the 2012 NFL season, a young and inexperienced quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, checked into the game to replace the recently concussed Alex Smith. Kaepernick churned out a mediocre game and led the 49ers into a tie, an occurrence that the league had not seen in the previous 4 seasons. It would be an understatement to say this first game would be the only history that Kaepernick would make in his football career.

As Kaepernick was establishing himself as a prominent quarterback, the US began to experience an unprecedented amount of incidents pertaining to police brutality against black males. Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, and many others became the faces of this sudden and unfortunate trend in law enforcement. The story was all too familiar: a black male found himself in an encounter with an officer (or gun owner) and somehow ended up dead. This national problem was only exacerbated by questionable court decisions, violent post-riots, and social media. For Kaepernick, he had seen enough. On August 14, 2017, Kaepernick sat during the anthem for a preseason game. Initially, the first protest was not noticed until Kaepernick formally called attention to himself on August 28, prompting the nation to notice and form opinions. Kaepernick explained how he did not “want to show pride to a nation that oppresses people of color” and how that concept alone prevented him from standing during the anthem.

To provide context about Kaepernick’s protests, the truth about the NFL and its relation to the Department of Defense (DOD) should be explained. It was not until 2009 that the NFL changed their legislation regarding the anthem, then “encouraging” players to stand, when before, standing was not mandated, and some teams chose to stay in their locker rooms. In 2015, it was revealed that the DOD hashed out 5.4 million dollars to a number of NFL teams to coordinate “patriotic salutes.” If you have ever been to a football game, the short pauses in the match to recognize veterans, or even the choosing of military personnel to sing the anthem are all manufactured stunts hoping to increase recruitment rates.

As we all know, Kaepernick’s protest faced enormous national backlash. To start, many labeled the protest as disrespectful and out of place for an NFL athlete. A popular opinion was that a pampered, successful NFL player should not take any political stances, while others called the demonstration inconsiderate to the thousands of servicemen and women who risk their life daily. Even Alejandro Villanueva, a well-respected guard for the Steelers who is in the military, said “ I don’t know if the most effective way is to sit down.”

Considering this backlash, it is important to remember that protesting is a constitutional right. People choose to silence Kaepernick due to his wealth and fame as he, as well as many other African-American athletes, is seen as “lucky” in the public eye. Society sees these successful black men and hopes to keep them in check by belittling their political views or rights as Americans. And for those who deem the protests “unpatriotic,” is it wrong for one to want a better future for their race, a better place for their kids? Ironically, Kaepernick’s actions are the most American because, though unpopular to some, they challenge the faults our society attempts to keep hidden. Kaepernick’s kneeling is a direct manifestation of what our servicemen and women fight for on a daily basis: the ability to stand up (or kneel) to our government.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
Product of Errant Publishing Co.
https://www.sbnation.com/2016/9/11/12869726/colin-kaepernick-national-anthem-protest-seahawks-brandon-marshall-nfl
https://thinkprogress.org/nfl-dod-national-anthem-6f682cebc7cd/
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/25/opinion/colin-kaepernick-football-protests.html
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/05/17/us/black-deaths-police.html

Black Panther: Political Shaming to Incite Change

in Miscellaneous/Political Issues by

Marvel superhero movies have always included incredible action, but Ryan Coogler, director of Black Panther, coupled that action with incredible thematic presence to blow the entire world away, myself included. In Black Panther, King T’Challa rules the technologically advanced, isolated nation of Wakanda. During its initial development, Wakandan tribes discovered a metal with nearly infinite technological applications that would soon propel this society to levels of affluence never reached by the outside world. In order to preserve their nation’s fortunes, they cut themselves off from the rest of the world, never sharing any of their wealth or technology with their less fortunate neighbors. Decades later, T’Challa becomes aware of the suffering world around him and struggles to face the morally crushing dilemma of foreign policy. The question of giving up the nation’s security in order to help those in need seems to plague T’Challa’s mind. In fact, viewers cannot help but feel guilty themselves.  In a fictional movie dedicated to overcoming the selfish nature of isolationism and self-preservation, these issues seem very real in modern America. Ryan Coogler uses guilt to incite the need for change across its viewers, and the United States, by describing privilege as something to be shared with the world, rather than kept to oneself.

Personally, Black Panther provoked guilt surrounding my own privilege, and drove me to question how much I have done to help those in need. I remember walking out of the theater shocked after my first viewing of Marvel’s critically acclaimed masterpiece, Black Panther. The action amazed me, the visual effects: stunning, but something about this movie caught me off guard. The way Black Panther portrayed the role of the fortunate made me feel initially confused. After hours of thought, disappointment with myself and  my country rushed through my brain. I have always thought of myself as culturally sensitive and aware of other people’s problems, but Black Panther shot me with a dose of reality: I have done nothing to help solve these problems that I never had to deal with. I have not chosen to use my fortunate position in life to help others. I don’t actively travel the world to help those who can’t afford things so trivial to me, like water and food. I choose to spend money on a new iPhone each year, instead of helping those who weren’t fortunate enough to be born into a family that could serve them the way mine has. The only difference between myself and those living in hunger-stricken poverty is my luck. Hatred of my undeserved position in life boiled in my brain the night after that movie, and all I could feel was shame. Still, one week later, I legitimately felt mortified when I dried my hands with three paper towels, instead of the adequate amount of one. That small action brought on feelings of being part of the problem. My friends and family tell me that I think too much about other people, and that their problems should not bother me, but I can’t stand being a passive bystander any longer.

Shame drove me to write this article, shame drove me to question my position in life, and shame caused me to feel inadequate and discontent with the world today, and I know my friends and family have felt the same reaction. THAT is how Black Panther achieves its goal. Those feelings of inadequacy are what drives people to make change. The way Ryan Coogler intertwines shame into the cultural phenomenon that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe allows him to send a hard-hitting message across the world that will incite change for good.

Prioritizing Justice Over Civility

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

No words resonate with the modern status of racial inequality more than those of Dr. Martin Luther King in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Over 54 years ago, King reminded African Americans that the Negro’s greatest stumbling block in his stride toward freedom would be the white moderate. King defined this individual as more devoted to ‘order’ than to progress. The archetype of the moderate, an individual preferring an absence of tension over the presence of justice, appears in both the fiction of literature and the realities of our own history. President Donald Trump’s ambiguous response to the violence incited by a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville revealed Trump’s preference for American order over African-American justice. President Trump’s inexcusable behaviour demonstrates that acting on the grounds of civility with regards to racism prohibits social progress towards justice.  

In present day America, our nation’s foremost priority of civil order threatens social progress towards complete racial equality. In August of 2017, in response to the prejudice-motivated actions of a white nationalist group in Charlottesville, Virginia, President Trump blamed “many sides” for the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence.”* Yet, he failed to identify the Alt-Right white supremacist group as the sole perpetrators of this crime. By equating the blame “on both sides” instead of condemning the white-supremacists, Trump undermines the efforts of anti-racists protestors. Essentially, the President reduced the concerns of these individuals to avoid further disruption in Charlottesville. The President’s desire to placate racial animosity hinders the resolution of these recurring conflicts.

Trump, assuming the role of King’s white moderate archetype, prefers to silence the anger of African Americans rather than to combat the racist ideologies of their oppressors. In his initial remarks, Trump identified the anti-racist supporters as the “Alt-Left group,” criticizing that, unlike the Alt-Right group, these counter-demonstrators did not have a permit to protest in Charlottesville. Regardless of whether the anti-racists protesters violated this requirement, their actions to counter the hate-filled speech pervading Charlottesville deserved the President’s praise, not his criticism. Trump’s injection of moral equivalence into a situation of racial discrimination demonstrates his attempt to prioritize the law of the nation over justice for the nation’s African-American people. While other prominent politicians ardently denounced the actions of these white supremacists, Trump defended his moderate response by accusing “fake media” of never being satisfied. Even with backlash from his initial remarks, Trump insisted that “not all of [these protestors] were white supremacists.”  Despite their Confederate flags and “You will not replace us” posters, Trump concluded that these individuals were simply protesting “the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee,” later questioning “whether the movement to pull down [these] Confederate statues would lead to the desecration of memorials to George Washington.” If Trump were to denounce the cruelties of these white-supremacists, he would legitimize the anger of African-Americans and inspire more individuals to protest these injustices.

However, rather than recognizing the prejudiced truth behind their opposition, Trump justified their protests by dismissing the relevance of counter-protestors concerns. Rationalizing the issue of racial discrimination, Trump subverted all efforts toward social progress. Instead of using his platform to promote change, Trump exploited his power to undermine progressive movements and, in effect, prevent racial equality in America. Trump’s inability to condemn the evident acts of terror in Charlottesville perpetuated the culture of unspoken racism permeating in American society, denying justice to the African American community.

To obtain rightful justice, individuals must disregard the order which infiltrates their surroundings. By opting for social order when justice was required, Trump engaged in a form of covert racism which trivialized the problems of the black community under a false pretense of sustaining “order”. It is this “order” which prevented those silenced in Charlottesville from complete freedom.

Thus, disregard the institution. Renounce the plagued loyalties. Condemn the acts of racism. Equality can only be realized by transcending civility, shouting against the cruelties executed by the moderate, yelling and screaming, deafening the oppressor of justice.

*On August 12, 2017, while protesting the decided removal of a confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, a supporter of the Alt-Right white-supremacist group rammed his car into a crowd of anti-racist counter-demonstrators, killing one young woman and injuring dozens.
Graphic Design by Frederique Fyhr
www.cnn.com/2017/08/12/politics/trump-fails-to-condemn-the-alt-right-white-supremacists/index.html
theestablishment.co/white-people-its-time-to-prioritize-justice-over-civility-bfd90b80012e
www.nytimes.com/2017/08/15/us/politics/trump-press-conference-charlottesville.html
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