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Colin Kaepernick, pre-season MVP

I have something in common with Colin Kaepernick. I don’t stand at sporting events, either.

Of course, I don’t play quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. Social media was afire recently over Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the pre-game national anthem. More than one post said that if it weren’t for the flag, the anthem, and the soldiers who defend them, Kaepernick wouldn’t have the freedom to collect $12 million a year playing professional football.

I do stand for the Star-Spangled Banner. But I stay in my seat when thousands of fans stand and cheer men and women in the armed services. My silent protest draws some certain looks or sideways sneers.

I am neither a dove nor a chicken hawk. I signed up for the Army National Guard before I graduated from high school. My draft number was 297 and never would have been called. I was glad to postpone college for basic training and go to Guard meetings one weekend a month and two weeks a year for six years. Soon after college, I had fulfilled my military obligation.

I sit simply because I think it odd that, of all the categories of Americans that we honor, we honor warriors. I’m resolved that I won’t stand until we also honor the profession that will determine whether the United States remains free — school teachers.

Sure, we have Teacher Appreciation Nights once a season, and those are great. But that’s not enough.

We owe teachers our constant appreciation and encouragement.

We have dumped in their laps so many of the problems that our society doesn’t want to handle.

Teachers are the linchpin of our national defense.

Colin Kaepernick chooses to sit because of the state of race relations in this country. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he said.

Good for him.

People of color in this country were taught as children to sing “…O’er the land of the free….” They were taught in grade school to recite this from the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

They were taught that it is an inherent duty of law enforcement to “serve” and “protect,” as it’s displayed on the police shields of many departments, including Raleigh’s.

But as black and brown American children memorized those paeans to freedom, many of them knew in their hearts that the acclamations were fiction — at least for them. Their experiences taught them so.

In this country, there are demonstrable differences in the rate at which people of color are incarcerated, unemployed, and even shot by the law enforcement officers who are sworn to protect citizens. There are income gaps and achievement gaps that separate black citizens from white. And in many states, including North Carolina, there is a vile and systematic campaign to make it more difficult for black people to vote, and to diminish the power of their votes.

It’s refreshing that a NFL quarterback sits down during the Star-Spangled Banner to make a statement. Sit-ins changed this country in the 1950s and 60s. Maybe taking a seat will lead white Americans to begin to understand the pain of injustice that our black American brothers and sisters continue to feel. If so, then sitting down would make Colin Kaepernick a Most Valuable Player before the regular season kicks off.

Ken Eudy

Ken Eudy is a writer, speaker, and creative strategist.