It has been over a week since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin. Protests have grown in size, politicians have spoken out, and social media platforms have erupted with an abundance of activism and advocacy. While the Black Lives Matter movement has gained a significant amount of support, opponents of the cause have deemed the movement and protests as anti-American, violent, and even divisive.
Back in September of 2016, football fans nationwide watched as Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, took a knee during the national anthem as a gesture of peacefully protesting police brutality and racism. Quickly following his bold political statement, Kaepernick was told that he was insulting the country and disrespecting the flag by kneeling. Critics of Kaepernick's actions encouraged other Americans to boycott Nike entirely, as Kaepernick had various partnerships with the brand. A new Twitter hashtag “JustBurnIt,” a spinoff of Nike’s motto “Just Do It,” trended. Even President Donald Trump responded in anger, calling players who disrespect the flag “sons of bitches.”
Fast-forward to current times and the same criticism is being expressed about the protests for George Floyd’s death. This idea of protest being anti-American actually stems from racist and nationalistic ideologies. To tell the black men and women in the streets that protesting the persistent systemic racism in our country is anti-American is the same as telling them that they should be silent and accept a reality where they are disadvantaged and killed for the color of their skin. To tell black Americans that what they’re protesting is wrong is telling them that police brutality is right.
You cannot foster change without radical action. Many supporters of the movement have cited the Boston Tea Party as an example for why social uprising works to create political change. However, many opponents of the movement respond to this by saying that “history shouldn’t repeat itself.” The thing is, history has been repeating itself for the past hundreds of years. Black Americans have been disadvantaged in America since times of slavery.
Protesting and speaking up against injustice is American. The first Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s paved the way for another one in 2020. Use your constitutional rights. Do not accept the narrative that because you are protesting racism, you are protesting your country. You are not any less American because you support this movement. America cannot improve or change without protest, criticism, and social activism. Despite the opinions you may have on the Black Lives Matter movement itself, it is an undeniable fact that protest and freedom of speech are concepts that have shaped and will continue to shape our nation.