To Stand or Not to Stand

By Buthovas Merceron

Mama would have felt conflicted by Colin Kaepernick’s protest. She has pride in her American citizenship but she despises the struggles African Americans face in the “land of the free and home of the brave.” She would understand his cause and appreciate his bravery. Mama would see Kaepernick as a martyr, a man sacrificing his comfortable lifestyle as a millionaire athlete for a cause greater than just a flag. Now of course the flag means so much to so many people because in many ways it represents unity, and bravery, but Mama knows that many of the rights the national anthem preaches are basically false advertising. We are promised freedom of speech and expression yet it feels like we can’t speak our minds. As an Haitian-American immigrant, my Mama has experienced many types of discrimination or racism, whether it was that white employee who didn’t understand why a woman who barely speaks english makes more money than her or the boss who believes that this immigrant doesn’t deserve the job more than her recently fired friends. Growing up in Haiti, she always perceived the Haitian flag as a symbol of what it means to be Haitian. She saw the flag as a portrayal of the good aspects of the people. Mama still remembers making flags in kindergarten with blue and red colored paper along with glue. She was always proud to be Haitian. To her, it went beyond nationality. At church, they often preached the wonderful traits of Haitians and how they differ from other people of the world. In a way she would understand the argument against Colin because she’s always held her flags with respect. She never lost sight of it.

She memorized the anthem and always had a little constitution booklet with her. At first she praised America for being a place of opportunities but what was most important to her was that America provided her with a chance to start over. She took a few classes at a community college before she found a job at Olive Garden. Then, from there she moved up to New Balance. Her job isn’t the most entertaining or worthwhile, but she loves having it. Then came her encounter with racism and discrimination. It never changed her opinion of the country as a whole but it shed some light on the struggles that immigrants or minorities face in the U.S. in certain areas, jobs, or circumstances. Although she sees the negative sides of her home country, she has enough pride to stand up during the national anthem and praise the country. In a way I see how having been given the opportunity of a good life influences the way she views the nation despite constant ongoing racial tensions. Having been with her through the last seven years I realize there’s no right way to respect the flag. I personally would never feel comfortable enough to kneel knowing how much this country has shaped my future but kneeling isn’t wrong. It’s a matter of opinion. However, I could never stand the thought of someone accusing me of not respecting the flag of a country that has given me so much. Everyone values the flag differently. As well, everyone has to fight battles almost everyday and they should have the right to protest the wrongs happening in society. It is a constitutional right given to them that should not be taken.