It didn't start with Colin Kaepernick. The protest for the equal treatment of people of color by public figures is not a new thing. It's not some hot fad that will just was away by the wayside once everyone stops talking about it. It's not even the first time this year for that matter. Only a few months have passed since Jesse Williams took the mic at the widely aired BET Awards and spoke of the racial and sexual inequalities of this country. That was an uneasy moment for some, but it happened on a "second-rate" network like BET (although it was broadcast across 6 networks) so no one cared to make it an issue. Well, black people did. The rest of the country mostly ignored it since it was a famous personality stepping outside of his profession. America doesn't like it when you do that.
The passing of Muhammad Ali provided an interesting view of this country's tendency to craft a false narrative around their idols. Much like Martin Luther King, Jr, the reverence for Ali is altered in a fashion to make his legacy more marketable. Let's be honest; draft dodging has a certain stigma that is not easy to overcome, yet sports historians will do their best to remove that moment from the life of the champ. I find it supremely ironic that Muhammad Ali, a man whose name in itself speaks to his rebellion, is infamous for refusing to take part in the Vietnam war can still rise and be celebrated by mainstream America in his death and mere months later that same mainstream find it hard to accept a man will protest injustice by refusing to stand for an anthem. Let that soak in.
Still more amusing is the criticism of Kaepernick's protest as being divisive. This view is so amusing that it is disgusting. There is a line of people around the block ready to stand and discuss the various methods that should be deployed to discuss the inequalities present in this country; I emphasize discuss the methods not the solutions because this method of not standing for an anthem is too much to bear for some. Contrast that to the line of people willing to discuss how this love for the Confederacy years after the resolution of the Civil War is an issue. That line is real short. Don't misinterpret this statement because the symbolism behind the Confederate flag is fully understood, but even at the evasive argument that it simply represents the spirit of the South during the Civil War is ridiculous. The southern states seceded and eventually went to war with the north is the epitome of divisiveness. This basic view of the actions of the 1860's as a basic disagreement between two ideologies is convenient and deceitful.
Colin Kaepernick's critics continue to relay their disconnect with anyone would feel compelled to protest in the fashion he chose while overlooking the fact that his protest one of the most peaceful ways to do so. It's also worth mentioning that many of these critics are the same ones who are critical of Black Lives Matter protests because they seem to be too disruptive. To bring this idea full circle, protesting is essential to the existence this nation. The Civil War is one of two notable protests key to the history of the United States with the American Revolution being the other. Both conflicts involved the eventual violent resolution to an ongoing struggle yet the anger from oppressed people in regards to their issues is not received well. Back to the previous point of the support for the Confederacy for what ever reason, it is appalling that they still have a noticeable presence in comparison to British Loyalist, who are all but an afterthought in the context of US history. That speaks volumes about who is telling the story.
The nature of many US citizens is to have the aspects of their lives compartmentalized; this brings the discussion full circle. They do not care to have issues and topics to intersect because it makes it hard to avoid those uncomfortable issues. It becomes difficult to remove the unwanted slices. America is said a melting pot, but there are those that prefer it a bento box allowing them to digest their interests and ignore the rest. When public figures like Kaepernick bring unwanted social issues into their spectrum, it is much like the portions of their meal running together on the plate forcing them to sample items outside of their general preference. It is easy to disregard those who echo the quarterback's sentiment when they do not have his platform. It is easy to dismiss them as lazy, complaining rejects who are always looking for an excuse. It's easy to belittle their requests for equal treatment by saying it is not deserved for one reason or another. Even the most self-proclaimed progressive is able to selectively opt-out of issues of inequality when it does not convenient to do so. The ease in which people over look the inequalities in various areas of this country makes protest more likely. The protests gain the support of those in the public eye when they realize how their influence can impact a discussion and inspire an action. The protesting didn't start when Colin Kaepernick refused to rise for the playing of the national anthem; it won't end there either. The worship of public figures will continue produce advocacy for more issues they consider important and under served.