Courage is contagious.
Rosa Parks proved that a long time ago when she defied Jim Crow humiliation and arrest on a segregated public bus in Montgomery, Ala. By sitting down she stood up for an entire people and helped spark a nonviolent revolution that changed our country and the world.
Rosa Parks was a true American patriot – and a hero.
Colin Kaepernick is following in her footsteps on the long road to social, racial and economic justice. The lanky quarterback’s simple protest of silently sitting – now kneeling – during the national anthem has spread across the country from the billion dollar stadiums of the NFL to the high school playing fields awash in Friday night lights.
Those who have joined Kaepernick in his protest against police brutality and soul crushing economic and racial disparities are saying to America: Be true to what you say on paper. We deserve more than the hypocrisy of democracy.
My father, Charles Henry Jackson, was a member of the Greatest Generation, the millions of young American men and women who defeated Hitler and saved democracy. Yet, when Daddy returned to “the home of the brave and the land of the free” from the battlefields of Europe, he and other black soldiers – tiny American flags stitched on their uniforms – had to sit behind Nazi prisoners of war on segregated military bases.
I learned and recited the Pledge of Allegiance in segregated second rate public schools. In the summer of 1960, when I was 18, I was arrested for the first time in my civil rights career, along with seven classmates.
Our crime – we were trying to use the main – white – branch of the public library in Greenville, S.C. The American flag was hanging near the front entrance of the building.
Kaepernick is not disrespecting the flag. He is honoring it. He knows what his critics do not. The flag gives us the right to fight for the right.
And he knows what my father knew and taught me. This country is worth fighting for overseas and at home until it truly is the land of the free – and the equal.
That’s what true patriots do.
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