The March on Washington, 1963. Photo from National Archives Catalog/Rowland Scherman.

What does it mean to be a patriot? When Colin Kaepernick and other athletes chose to kneel during the national anthem, it attracted anger from many who called them unpatriotic and claimed they were disrespecting the flag.  

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines patriotism as “a love for or a devotion to one’s country.” 

 According to some, this means patriotism is dedication to the status quo. A commitment to preserve a past that they deem as worth saving. 

I disagree. 

I believe that a true patriot is someone who works to improve their country, and make it better for everyone living there.  

My personal views aside, those who claimed that Kaepernick was unpatriotic were dead wrong because, in America, there is nothing more patriotic than a protest.  

I still remember the way my Facebook exploded when Nike’s ad featuring Kaepernick came out. It seemed the internet was overflowing with people comparing Kaepernick’s loss to veterans who had died on the front lines of various wars and obviously finding it wanting, which was not something that he had ever claimed to be competing with. Posts, from people who were so upset about the action that Kaepernick was taking that they refused to hear the why.  

I believe that those people have forgotten what this country is ultimately supposed to be about. 

Freedom. 

Perhaps if they weren’t so busy being offended by what Kaepernick had done, they might have been able to hear his words and realize that the fight for freedom is one that is still ongoing.  

With the tragic murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis Police officer, a match was struck against the ever-growing kindling of pain and outrage of oppressed people in America.  

So now, the Black Lives Matter movement has taken off on social media, the protests are garnering national attention and various companies and individuals are expressing their support for the movement.  

Yet, protesters are called thugs by many who disagree with them.  

At best, those who stand up against racism and oppression are called unpatriotic by their more vocal opponents. At worst, they are branded as wild radicals, and lumped together as anarchists and looters.  

This is hogwash.  

This is America, and in America, protesting is a right. More than that protesting is our history.  

America is a nation with a history of protesting at its heart.  

The Boston Tea Party, to protest taxation without representation. The Vietnam protest which claimed “old enough to fight, old enough to vote,” and gave 18-year old’s the right to vote. The women’s suffrage movement which granted the same right to all woman, and the civil rights movement which fought so hard for an end to the laws oppressing minorities.  

This current time of protest is no different. It is simply the continuation of a fight that has taken far too long to make America what it claims to be. A place where all people are free and equal.