America needs to think about its identity, not Colin Kapernick or shoes

By James Krause

It is fitting to me that the President’s Salute to America wasn’t sun kissed and bright like the ideal day for attendees would have been, but cloudy with occasional downpours.

For the past few years on Independence Day, there has been a cloud over a day that’s supposed to celebrate America. The fear I hold, that some others may as well, is the fear of patriotism becoming a dirty word used to defend hate.

The fear of patriotism now in this country is not of those who enjoy the freedoms and opportunity this country provides us to give back to it. It’s of the nationalists, hate groups or ignorant individuals who use patriotism as a measuring stick of value and a way to project hate onto others. 

The later group is once again aiming their hate at someone looking to hold the country accountable for mistakes. They are mad at Nike and mad at Colin Kapernick.

Former 49ers quarterback Kapernick reached out to Nike about a flag they planned to print onto their Air Max 1 USA sneakers, the Betsy Ross flag. 

The Associated Press reported Tuesday Kapernick told the company how the flag recounts a time when African-Americans were still slaves and in modern times has been appropriated by groups of white nationalists. Nike, in response, stopped the sale of the shoe.

It may shock tons to know that the Betsy Ross flag is now viewed as a potential symbol of hate, even though it was identified as such by the NAACP in 2016. It shouldn’t shock many that the state of life for African Americans is ignored by many Americans, as any history that recalls the pain of others in the creation of America tends to be a blind spot.

It is that very blindness to the pain of the disenfranchised that led Colin Kapernick to be a symbol now of the civil rights movement. 

When Kapernick started taking a knee during the national anthem to raise awareness of social injustice and police brutality, an uncomfortable white America choose to call him unpatriotic rather than confront the issues he mentioned. Now it’s happening again.

Kapernick lost his job when he rocked the boat with white America. When the tables were turned, all America lost were some shoes.

Again, the lesson to be learned from Kapernick’s actions has been lost in the outrage. Why are we allowing nationalists groups who operate and thrive off hate highjack these symbols of American history? 

The anger of commentators, columnists and citizens aimed at Nike and Kapernick over not selling a pair of shoes could be channeled into calling out these groups who have taken these patriotic symbols hostage.

There is a much larger picture to the story that goes back to the struggles some Americans may have had this year or in years past celebrating the US. 

It struck me while watching the current flag, 50 stars and 13 red and white stripes, rise to the accompaniment of the singing of the national anthem, God Bless America and America the Beautiful. 

Will Mexican-Americans decades and centuries from now, knowing this country took migrant children away from their parents and put them in cages without water, look at our flag and feel the same way Kapernick feels about the Betsy Ross flag?

Will the flag we wave today be waived again in the future by nationalists who claim that their love for this country and its history is what drives them to discriminate?

We’ll be long dead before we know what impression this time will leave on history will be, but yelling about shoes isn’t going to make our time meaningful.