See this flag? It’s known as “The King’s Colours” and it was adopted by Great Britain in 1707. This was the flag of the original thirteen colonies prior to our war for independence. If you lived in the Americas prior to 1776, this is the flag you would have saluted if you were a soldier. Both soldiers and ordinary citizens swore allegiance to the crown.
Over time, however, sentiments changed. Colonists were tired of taxation without representation. They were upset at having their local militias disarmed, tired of being subject to a king they viewed as oppressive and guilty of denying them their individual liberties.
What did they do? They committed high treason by renouncing their oath to the British Crown and establishing a shadow government. They took up arms and fought for independence. They stopped saluting the King’s Colours. They no longer stood for a chorus of “Rule Britannia.”
To countrymen loyal to their British homeland, these protestors were seen - at best – as ungrateful and disrespectful. At worst - they were terrorists committing acts of treachery. After war broke out, many hanged for rebellion against the British Crown.
Nevertheless, they persisted and eventually won our war of independence. Thanks to their victory, the King's Colours was replaced by the Stars and Stripes.
Our founding fathers were keen to ensure our new form of government didn’t make the same mistakes made by the British. They enshrined a declaration of individual liberties in our constitution that, above all, protected dissent and those who believed our government was failing in its duty to the people. Topping these list of protections, was the right to assemble when and where we want, and the right to say whatever we want – no matter how critical of our government that speech might be.
There was only one problem with these newfound freedoms and protection of individual liberties.
They were only for the white man.
People of African descent were not considered human, but a sub-species subject to being enslaved, as the vast majority were until a second war was fought for their independence. Even after that war, Southern Democrats colluded with Northern Republicans to re-enslave African-Americans. They passed legislation now referred to as “Jim Crow” laws and the 13th amendment, that promised freedom, but included a loophole for criminal conviction. As a result, southern blacks were given harsh penalties resulting years of incarceration as slave laborers for petty crimes like jay-walking and spitting on the sidewalk – or more often, charges for which they were falsely accused and tried without a jury of their peers.
Although the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 promised freedom and equality for African-Americans, the United States government found a way to circumvent their freedoms.
In the 1970’s, our government began a program of systematic drug distribution in black urban communities intended to addict large numbers of black men and women to narcotics. Under the pretext of anti-drug legislation, a disproportionate number of blacks were incarcerated.
According to President Nixon’s domestic policy chief John Ehrlichman, “…we knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities, we could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did."
This is the truth Black Lives Matter and athletes like Colin Kaepernick are seeking to highlight in their decision to “take a knee” during our national anthem. Why shouldn’t they? African-Americans have endured far more than our white ancestors who “took a knee” for the King's Colours. Our ancestors not only “took a knee” - they took a gun - and began to shoot soldiers of the British Crown who carried their flag.
Pretty disrespectful, huh?
Our African-American brothers, beginning with Martin Luther King, instead chose a path of non-violence to underscore their oppression. Now, they are vilified even for that. It would appear, among White American, no strategy to highlight the injustices faced by black America is appropriate if it makes them feel uncomfortable.
Yet, black Americans are doing the very thing our white ancestors who “took a knee” for the King's Colours did, except they are actually doing it with far more respect and constraint.
Those who vilify them are not celebrating the Stars and Stripes or our National Anthem. They are celebrating their role as oppressor. They are on the side of those who stood for the King's Colours and sang the anthem, “Rule Brittania.”