Talking on the Fox News program Outnumbered this week, Bill O'Reilly claimed that Colin Kaepernick "doesn't understand the big picture of his country". O'Reilly then goes on to prove that he, himself, doesn't understand the big picture of this country for non-white Americans.
Firstly, he suggests that protesting the national anthem is disrespectful to "all Americans" despite the litany of support Kaepernick has received from many Americans, including those who have served our country. O'Reilly is fine with protesting, but is offended by Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem and thinks that the NFL should instead give him a room where he can talk about his opinions.
This is classic conservative logic at play. Minorities are free to protest as long as they do it when, where and how whites tell them to, because God forbid anyone protest in a way that is offensive or unpatriotic to conservatives. After all, it's not like conservatives stand outside Planned Parenthood facilities holding signs with aborted fetuses meant to be so offensive that patients change their mind. It's not like conservatives laid down on a bridge with guns pointed at federal officials in protest of "government overreach". It's not like conservatives took over a wildlife refuge in Oregon, costing taxpayers millions. It's not like conservatives ever booed a serviceman or their parents for being gay or having a different view.
Conservatives wouldn't do these things because they could be seen as offensive or unpatriotic which is totally unacceptable. And we all know if there's one things conservatives believe in, it is making sure that no one is ever offended by what someone else says or does because they whole hearted support that sort of political correctness and censorship.
The reality is, protests are meant to draw attention; and regardless of your stance on kneeling for anthem, Kaepernick's protest has attracted a massive response. Pretending that minorities need to appease whites when protesting has racial undertones that O'Reilly should be embarrassed to present as rational.
Where O'Reilly really exposes his ignorance is when he not only errantly chastises Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem on 9/11, despite the fact that the protest occurred on Monday Night Football on 9/12, but also suggests Kaepernick's protest is over the fact "that some black people have been killed by police". If he had taken even 30 seconds to understand why Kaepernick was protesting, he would have found this quote: "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color".
The fact that "some black people have been killed by police" is part of this protest, but it is hardly the entirety of it. In spite of O'Reilly's comments to the contrary, statistics show that systemic racism is a problem in the United States. In Ferguson it was determined there were "clear" and intentional "racial disparities" in the application of the law. When it was discovered that the IRS was singling out conservative organizations, conservatives were outraged by the injustice. Why then are they indifferent to other government agencies disproportionately targeting African Americans?
Of course systemic racism isn't limited to the Ferguson police department. Data show that, despite the fact that white youth are more likely to use drugs, black youth are twice as likely to be arrested for drug use. The stop and frisk program in New York so many conservatives loved resulted in blacks making up 54% of those stopped while only 9% were white. Studies have found that the average sentence given to a black person convicted of a crime was 10% longer than that of their white counterparts. And a new federal report found that black students were four times as likely to be suspended as white students.
These statistics do not represent an equal opportunity for blacks, which is exactly the type of injustice Kaepernick and others hope to change.
Beyond that, Kaepernick also stated he was concerned about the oppression of "people of color". This covers a number of other issues like the unconstitutional "papers please" law in Arizona, the test on how loyal Muslims are to America that some conservatives support, and the illegal voter ID laws that target poor minority voters.
While Bill O'Reilly's treatment of Colin Kaepernick and his protest are insulting and border on racist, perhaps the worst statement O'Reilly makes is when he arrogantly suggests there is no doubt he would "win the debate about patriotism in America" with Kaepernick.
It's great that Bill O'Reilly loves his country and feels he is very patriotic, but to question another man's patriotism because he has experienced a different world than you and reacts to it in a way you dislike exposes a distinct lack of patriotism on Bill's part. In fact, this is the sort of love of country logic disturbingly used by Joseph McCarthy in the 1950's to discredit dissenters.
Kneeling for the anthem is no less patriotic than interrupting the president during an interview. Pretending one act disrespects "all Americans" while the other represents a patriot standing up for his beliefs shows just how disingenuous O'Reilly is being regarding patriotism.
What would conservatives do to prove their patriotism if they there wasn't an American flag to wrap themselves in while spewing hate? How could they show they love America if they couldn't act like supporting a blank check for the military industrial complex represented the purest form a patriotism? How could they prove their nationalist pride if there were no enemies for our troops to fight?
Merriam-Webster defines patriotism as "love that people feel for their country". How that love is exhibited changes over time, it differs by person, and it has no definitive measure. But if it did, many would probably argue that refusing to stand up for the national anthem is far less disrespectful to our servicemen than refusing to stand up for those who are being denied their constitutional rights, through systemic racism and inequality, that our servicemen have sworn to protect.