In the wake of the controversy surrounding 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his decision not to stand for the national anthem, former major leaguer Doug Glanville penned a column for US News & World Report explaining why he still chooses to stand for the national anthem.
Glanville, a black male athlete, has had to deal with racism throughout his life. For example, he writes that his academic achievements at an Ivy-league college were “chalked up to affirmative action,” and his athletics achievements were chalked up to “natural talent.” Furthermore, Glanville recalls two times in the last two years someone made an assumption about him simply by the color of his skin. Two years ago, Glanville was shoveling his own driveway when a police officer parked his car, walked up to him, and asked, “So, you trying to make a few extra bucks, shoveling people’s driveways around here?” He wrote about that incident of racial profiling at The Atlantic. Glanville also recalls when he tried to get a taxi in Los Angeles and a driver told him to take the bus instead.
Despite that, Glanville still stands for the national anthem.
Kaepernick made me think of why I salute the flag and I am thankful that I finally had to answer that question. I have come to realize people salute it for a variety of reasons. It could be nostalgia, thinking about the good old days, the traditions, the memories, the way is used to be, the way it should still be, the sacrifice, honoring history. It could be about today, the America that has a world presence, a fantastic Olympic team, a lot of resources, more diversity than ever, a black president, a female nominee, an inspiration to freedom. It could be about the future, what I hope for, what I see in America’s greatest potential, the dreams of people who came before me. It accepts that we are not there yet and what makes us American is our constant competitive spirit to get there.
When up against the most difficult aspects of our racial reality, it is important to understand that so many people do not even know what to fight or how to fight it. Fighting an enemy that is so clearly visible in the moment, that instantaneously retracts into the shadows in its aftermath, creates desperation. We have seen horrific violence as a response, we have seen a rejection of our sacred symbols and servants in the most public forums. It stems from deep, unaddressed issues that have festered since the dawn of our country, and via institutions that perpetuate it to a privileged gain. So people are scared, as I imagine Kaepernick is, lost, afraid to get pulled over, having conversations like I am with their eight-year-old son because he is on the darker side of the color scale. Conversations that should be reserved for an 18 year old.
What makes Glanville’s column great, though, beyond being well thought out and reasoned, is that he doesn’t try to tell Kaepernick or anyone else what he or she should or should not do. Standing, or not standing, is a choice people make for themselves. Neither is inherently right or wrong. Glanville, being aware of and having experienced racism in similar ways as Kaepernick has, chooses to stand but that does not invalidate Kaepernick’s decision to sit.