Six-year-old is punished by school for kneeling during the Pledge of Allegiance
Thirteen months ago, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick remained seated on the stadium benches while the national anthem played at the beginning of a preseason game. Not many people noticed at the time, but his silent protest was one of utmost importance.
When challenged on his actions, Kaepernick explained that he could not support a nation that fosters institutional racism, and that carrying on as normal while innocent black people are getting murdered by police officers would be selfish:
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people, and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street, and people getting paid leave, and getting away with murder."
Kaepernick later transitioned to kneeling during the anthem, in order to show more respect for military veterans, and has been continually doing so for over a year. Again, nobody took much notice. However, his actions were publicised on Friday when President Donald Trump spoke out against Kaepernick's (and others') refusal to stand for the anthem.
"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a b**** off the field right now, out, he's fired. He's fired,'" said Trump during a campaign rally in Alabama.
Unsurprisingly, the President's comments caused uproar; firstly, because they showed a gross amount of ignorance and misunderstanding towards what the protest was actually about (not towards the flag, but towards racial inequality), and secondly, because it showed his disregard for those who are affected by institutional racism.
Since then, more and more people have been "taking a knee" to show support for Kaepernick and his fight against unfair treatment towards people of color, but not without criticism.
Recently, a six-year-old boy was punished for taking the knee during the Pledge of Allegiance at school. Instead of standing alongside his fellow pupils, the child knelt down, and was subsequently called out in front of the class by the teacher, who told him to "stand up and stop it".
The mother of the boy, who has not been named, later received a text message from his first grade teacher on the day of the incident. It said:
"I just wanted to let you know that this morning when it was time to do the Pledge of Allegiance [redacted name] went down on one knee. I knew where he had seen it but I did tell him that in the classroom ... we're learning about respecting the United States of America ... and showing loyalty and patriotism."
The mother says she did not tell her son to take a knee, but also respects his decision to do so. She was angered that the teacher would imply that her child's actions showed disrespect, as she says: "The bigger issue is cultural. They have demonstrated to me, through multiple incidents, that they don’t take inclusion and diversity serious."
To be exempted from joining the Pledge of Allegiance, a student is supposed to have a written request from their parents. But, arguably, the boy did still join in, he just did so on his knees.
Clearly, this issue continues to be a divisive one, but punishing children for highlighting injustice does not seem to be a viable way of solving the problem. Hopefully, President Trump will see that this protest is not intended to disrespect the USA, but rather to make sure that everybody is able to feel pride in their country.