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Anthem Supports False Narrative of Freedom

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When our field hockey team stood for the national anthem Saturday, it didn’t feel right. We didn’t feel proud to be standing for America because we didn’t feel that America offers anything worth being proud of. We’d felt this before: feelings of discomfort, confusion, and anger over being pressured to stand tall and strong in a display of unrelenting patriotism. At a certain point, we just couldn’t ignore the feeling anymore.

In August and September 2016, Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, received an enormous amount of media attention after kneeling during the anthem before one of the 49ers’ football games. Immediately after, people demanded to know: Why did he kneel?

Since that moment, which captured so much of the nation’s attention, countless athletes across the country — at the professional, collegiate, and even high school level — have followed Kaepernick’s example and knelt during the anthem. Last fall, our field hockey team joined those ranks. This weekend, some of us chose to kneel once again.

Simply put, we kneel for justice. When the national anthem first reached American ears, Black people were still enslaved. It is not a song written for us, about us, or in support of us. This “land of the free” was a land of slavery and oppression, and what the American flag symbolizes is no different.

The anthem and flag that represented an America in which Black people walked in chains still represents the America of today. Though much has changed since then, the United States has done little to prove that it values Black lives, work, or experience. The anthem, the flag, and most importantly, this country still fail to stand for all Americans. Until the United States stands for us, we won’t stand for it.

When you get to Oberlin, you’re told to choose a category: athlete or activist, not both. In many ways, there is a divide between athletics and activism and a perception that you cannot be involved in both communities. However, as Black athletes, we cannot decide to switch our Blackness on or off. Athletics are an important part of who we are and what we do at Oberlin.

Field hockey is one of the most important parts of our lives, and we care deeply about our team. But we are always Black first and athletes second. As Black athletes, we carry our Blackness with us every time we walk into the locker room, the weight room, or onto the field. We use our sport as a platform to stand up — or kneel down — for the issues we care about because there is no way for us to ignore who we are when we walk onto the field, and we shouldn’t have to.

There has always been controversy about using sports as a platform to make statements about social and political movements. Activism has caused tension on many teams — even our own field hockey team in previous years. Yet, few people question the legitimacy of sports as a platform when it comes to raising awareness about breast cancer, autism, or domestic violence. It’s hard to understand how using sports to stand up for some issues can be widely accepted and supported in some contexts, but receive so much backlash in others.

Instead of asking us why we kneel, ask yourself what you stand for. Do you stand for America? Do you stand for our troops? Do you stand for police brutality? Mass incarceration? Institutional racism? Trump?

Simply standing for the flag because it’s what we’ve been conditioned to do isn’t enough for us anymore. We don’t have the privilege to pick and choose what parts of America we want to stand for. Because we can’t stand for all of America, we kneel.

The first game in which we knelt for the national anthem felt right. Instead of mindlessly honoring the flag, we honored ourselves and our beliefs. Not everyone felt as passionately about this gesture as we did, but they still knelt in solidarity with us. For every game played — and every game to come — we kneel for ourselves. We kneel for our people. We kneel for justice. We kneel for change. We kneel for a land of the free — a land that does not yet exist.

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7 Comments

7 Responses to “Anthem Supports False Narrative of Freedom”

  1. Steven Kennedy on September 29th, 2017 5:26 PM

    You couldn’t think of anything about America to be proud of? You see nothing in the courage and sacrifices of our founders to be free of tyranny? Or the lofty goals they expressed, however incompletely realized? In the fact that under the almost sublime leadership of Abraham Lincoln we fought a war in which 600,000 people died to ultimately end slavery here? In the fact that millions of immigrants did come here and find the new life of personal and economic freedom which they sought? The fact that the US was the major contributor in defeating two of the most hideous genocidal dictatorships the world has seen in the twentieth century, then led the world in standing up to the dehumanizing brutality of Communism? Or how about the fact that you are privileged to attend an exclusive private school where freedom of speech and ideas is allowed and encouraged, directly descending from people like Jefferson and Hamilton and Madison? Have you learned no perspective during your brush with higher academia? That is sad.

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  2. Shirley on September 30th, 2017 10:38 PM

    I am so very proud of my
    great niece. We live our whole life praying that our
    children and young family members GET IT.#!! Thank you Ua. Your biggest cheer leader.

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  3. Mike on October 11th, 2017 7:09 PM

    Ummmm … Shouldn’t the US get credit for letting otherwise unqualified people into our colleges? That has to be a good thing, right?

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  4. Bernard Mulligan on October 11th, 2017 9:08 PM

    Coddled moron latching onto a trend.

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  5. J.P. on October 12th, 2017 10:44 AM

    Oberlin field hockey is 1-13. The 49ers are 0-5. Anyone see a connection?

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  6. Steve LeFavour on October 12th, 2017 11:18 AM

    There is nothing to be proud of? A lot of lazy headed thinking involved in that statement.

    I risked my life to defend this country against the tyrants that would do it harm just to have someone I was protecting tell me that “there is nothing to be proud of”. Well I am not proud of you, nor will I ever defend you against those tyrants again. You are not worth the effort.

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  7. Tampa Redader on October 12th, 2017 12:48 PM

    “We didn’t feel that America offers anything. worth being proud of”.

    Don’t worry, the feeling is mutual ladies.

    [Reply]

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Established 1874.