By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made national headlines recently when he refused to stand for the National Anthem prior to a 49ers preseason National Football League game.
While I’m not disputing his right to stand or not stand (and I do disagree with his decision to not stand), I do dispute his rationale.
Kaepernick, who is biracial, told NFL media reporter Steve Wyche: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag or country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
I would daresay that the majority of his teammates on the 49ers are “people of color” as he puts it. The minimum salary for an NFL football player in his first season is $450,000. The total jumps to $525,000 for the second season, followed by $600,000 in the third season, and $675,000 for year four. That is the minimum. That does not include the numerous players who earn millions of dollars per year. If that’s oppression, I wouldn’t mind being “oppressed.”
What’s more, Kaepernick lives in a country that, for now, has an African-American president. If our nation truly “oppressed” minorities, that election could not have happened eight years ago.
Are there African-Americans and other ethnic groups in America who are oppressed? Of course there are. But there are also countless white Americans who are just as oppressed, if not more.
If you don’t believe it, travel through the Appalachian region of East Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, and other states. Some of the worst poverty in America can be found in those states and most of those people are white. Oppression involves so much more than color of skin.
Poverty affects people of every race. People willing to work hard and make sacrifices often can escape poverty and oppression. Sometimes a person must be willing to leave family and friends to “escape” their circumstances. Those who are unwilling to change and seek a different lifestyle could view themselves as “oppressed.”
Back to Kaepernick. If the United States is such a horrible place to live as he asserts, why are people coming to our nation in droves. Most sources agree that approximately one million people a year enter the United States legally. That figure does not include the untold number of illegal immigrants.
The majority of people are coming to the United States because of its reputation for being a place where a person with determination and a willingness to work hard can succeed.
Christians, especially, should be grateful for the tremendous evangelism opportunities God is providing us. We don’t even have to leave our own communities or our state to share the gospel with an unbelieving world. They are coming to us and we need to be prepared to tell those who are coming to the United States about Jesus Christ. Tennessee is home to 146 global people groups, 46 of which are among the world’s most spiritually unreached.
In addition, Tennessee’s Hispanic population is growing by 25 percent every five years. See related column on page 2 and article on page 3.
We would not see these large numbers if America intentionally oppressed “people of color.”
America is not perfect because, after all, the country is inhabited by sinners. And, America does have its problems, most of which have been self-inflicted because our country has drifted so far from God.
But even with all our problems and “warts,” there is no better place in our world to live.
Colin Kaepernick should thank God every night that he does live in a country where he is allowed to disrespect it. In some countries, he could be thrown into prison or even executed for criticizing his country.
The United States is a great country even with all the issues that we face as a nation. And, as country music star Lee Greenwood sings so eloquently, “I’m proud to be an American.”