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African Americans deserve a voice


“They have their right to have their First Amendment off the field.” “They can do free speech on their own time.” These words were spoken by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin regarding the NFL protests of the national anthem.

Similar words were spoken in 1963 when Clergymen told Martin Luther King Jr. his actions regarding the Civil Rights movement were “untimely.” In 2017, African Americans are still receiving backlash for using their first amendment rights, and this is not okay.

Illustration: Madalyn Drewno • CU Denver Sentry

In 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the playing of the national anthem in protest of the wrongdoings against African Americans and other minorities in the United States. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said. A year later, players from all sports across the nation have united with Kaepernick and started to “take a knee” during the playing of the national anthem. However, players have been criticized for this form of peaceful protest.

This “Take a Knee” protest has deep roots that extend to the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement, but the purpose of this protest has now been misconstrued.

“If we look at our history we should look at the thousands of Americans who have given their life to protect our country, protect our flag. We should be celebrating the people… not looking at ways to divide it,” Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said. Like many others, Sanders believes that, by kneeling, players are disrespecting the flag and the people who serve in the military. However, “taking a knee” was never meant to protest the flag; it is meant to protest police brutality inflicted upon African Americans and raise awareness of the structural racism present in America.

Despite these misunderstandings, the real issue is the ongoing suppression of African American’s first amendment rights. The Black Lives Matter movement received a lot of harsh criticism because some people considered it to be a “violent” group even though it was hosting peaceful protests; the times protests did get violent, it was independent from the movement altogether. But in Charlottesville, Virginia, when hundreds of white supremacists gather in the streets protesting the removal of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a downtown park, the lines of what is deemed as free speech and hate speech are ultimately blurred. The protest and protesters went on to get justified for their actions as President Trump declared them as “very fine people.”

Celebrities have also used their platform to raise awareness and have too received criticism. Recently, musician Stevie Wonder took a knee during a Global Citizen Festival in New York on Saturday, Sept. 23 in support of the NFL player’s protest. He was then promptly criticized by former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh who proceeded to call Wonder “Another ungrateful black multi-millionaire.”

So if not now, when will it be okay for African Americans to protest? One would think that approximately 60 years after the Civil Rights Movement things might be different. But in the wise words of MLK, “Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”

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