Since the controversy regarding Colin Kaepernick’s protest first arose, I’ve been thinking about a blog post, but I hadn’t quite found a way to see his actions and the controversy itself as a queer issue and one that belonged in this blog. But two things have happened to change that:

  • A co-worker who is a friend on Facebook posted something over the weekend about how everyone ought to stand;
  • Miami Dolphin’s owner Steve Ross has come out strongly in support of four of his players who joined Kaepernick on Sunday.

These items are not truly related, but they got me thinking about what the real issues are behind the two disparate viewpoints most often expressed since this controversy began.

For the record, I am strongly in support of Kaepernick. Not only do I agree with what he has said, I see his actions as being aligned with a history of sports figures making cultural statements.  I both agree with the content of his protest as well as support his Constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech.

So why did these two things prompt me to write about this as a queer issue?

For some, they experience outrage over Kaepernick’s action because it appears to go against a strongly held view that we are supposed to respect the flag and what it stands for. Some would go so far as to say that everyone should be forced to stand for the flag and the national anthem. But this base idea- forcing someone to stand is the complete antithesis of what America is all about.

I think Kaepernick’s actions are what they are, precisely because he respects America and out of that respect, he must call out injustice as he sees it. On the far side- away from democracy, are countries which force obedience. Those who call for forcing everyone to stand are inadvertently wanting the United States to be more like those authoritarian regimes. They are right that everyone needs to respect America, but they are wrong when they see Kaeperinck’s actions as being anything other than respect.

Ross’s actions are so patriotic and admirable. He supports his team member’s rights to free expression and his statements remind us all what is important here– that a national dialogue surrounding equity and race is essential. Kaepernick’s actions are a very quiet ad nonviolent way to emphatically call for us all to see disparities in the way persons of color are treated. His actions ask all of us to be in dialogue about an underlying issue that stands in the way of our country’s ability to provide Justice for all.

So, how is this a queer issue, or more accurately, what elements about this issue are important from a queer perspective?

My fear is that those who seek to blindly force everyone’s compliance with behaviors, fail to grasp the importance of dissenting opinions that challenge the status quo. Continued progress on LGBTQ Rights demands that we continue to express dissenting views and speak out any time disparities exist. Some wish to remove Kaepernick’s right to free expression and place a sense of united respect as more important than the dissenting voice.Will queer voices be silenced, or will they cause outrage when queer voices speak out against injustice?

The outrage seems to be that some perceive there is a single right way to act regarding the flag and the national anthem. In my opinion, this is too similar to those who claim there is one right way for marriage (traditional) or one right way to be a male or female. Positions of this type place social constructions as more important than real justice for all.

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