Are Our Priorities Really Wrong?: A Letter to America

-Kira Smith-

I am not writing a response to Proof That Our Priorities Are Wrong for my own benefit, nor because I want to attack the author. I am writing this because I feel that one very biased opinion was represented and that the issue at hand was not tackled. Let’s start by actually talking about Colin Kaepernick’s choice, which he explained to the NFL by saying, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

Now I understand not everybody is going to understand or agree with his choice, especially not the general populous of America, but not everybody has the luxury of waltzing through life without fear of law enforcement, fear of violence. Being a minority is, in essence, like walking with a target painted on your back. My grandfather was the first of our family in America, and he opted to not teach my mother Spanish so she could assimilate in order to avoid being racially targeted and denied being treated as an “American.” But, I digress because my point is that not all Americans are treated equally as we so proudly tout. 63% of Americans are white, black persons only make up 12.3%, and Hispanics (a whopping 17%) are the largest minority. Why does this matter, you might be asking yourself, we already know that white America is the majority. Well, in 2011 62.9 million Americans over the age of 16 made contact with the police, which is 26% of the population. However, “1,217 deadly police shootings from 2010 to 2012 captured in the federal data show that blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while just 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police.”

This is just a small fraction of the population, but if we sampled the population as a whole, the trend would continue with more black people in America being killed by deadly force. This isn’t even the scope of the whole situation as many police organizations, under-report the use of force, as the director of the FBI stated in a speech in February of 2015. The importance of these statistics is crucial to understand why people everywhere, and not just Colin Kaepernick, are taking a knee.

Anger in the face of unjust treatment is a very powerful thing, but so is righteous indignation against injustice. How is it that an athlete takes a knee, and everyone is up in arms but not when children are being shot for holding a BB gun? Our flag, the symbol of our freedom, is forced compliance. It’s on the lapel of the suit of our president, in schools, in our homes and on clothing. It’s borderline fanaticism and close to fascism. We’re all forced to comply, forced into patriotism under the threat of a one way ticket to Guantanamo Bay. We’re not allowed to protest our anthem if not for uproar, or people redirecting away from this problem. Yes, there are other problems in this world, but we can be socially aware of multiple things at the same time. This is just polarizing because suddenly, people in positions of power are making moves. Nobody can make social and ethical issues front and center like the elite superstars of the sports and entertainment industry. Why should we be ashamed for tackling something that has been happening for decades? We shouldn’t be burying our heads in the sand like ostriches, but rather thinking about why we need to address this problem.

As I continue this article, you may think I am angry, which I am. The fact that this issue is being swept under the rug as not a big deal, boils my blood. When my safety as a minority in the country is at stake, I’m allowed to be mad. Police are trigger happy, and there is a reason why there’s an entire movement centered around black lives. This is not to say all law enforcement is bad, but the corrupt and unfair system is what’s being protested. This has been a long time coming for hundreds of years. Injustice has always been on the back-burner until someone does something to make the nation mad and pay attention. Kneeling during the anthem is all it took to make people look our way when minorities have been screaming and pleading to be heard. It’s senseless to say that our flag needs to be respected over the thousands of people killed in violent ways by law enforcement. I urge athletes, stars and regular people to continue drawing attention to this issue of ongoing inequality in America today. Continue to argue for what you feel is right. We need to create a rift, before we can become united as a whole. Freedom is not bound by a flag or symbol. Freedom is a right granted, not earned.

Categories: Features, Opinion