Social and Civic Responsibility Research Paper

In recent years, there has been an increase in political controversy and an increase in the trend of erosion of national pride and integrity. This has created a division between people in the United States due to political disagreements, resulting in many riots and protests. Is there a more constructive way to protest in which actually leads to positive change?

A protest is defined as a statement or action expressing disapproval or objection to something. People protest because of their feelings of inequality, deprivation, injustice, morals. People who protest are more likely to be angry and take action. Protests have played an important role in US history and protests have led us to where we are today as a country, and have been important. However, many protests are unsuccessful because they only appeal to a certain group of people, and they come across as offensive to some people which makes them have a negative outlook on the protest and not support it. The issues of time, place, and manner are at the core whether people either support protests or not. Protests are usually seen unfavorably which is reflected by the media coverage and public attitudes regarding the protests. This is mostly true mainly for people who are trying to enjoy and entertain themselves at public entertainment gatherings, sporting events, music events.

In August 2016, Colin Kaepernick took part in his own protest when he decided to sit down during the national anthem before an NFL preseason game saying that racial injustice and police brutality were the reasons for his protest. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” His protest resulted in a media firestorm and a debate over his protest. Many people were offended by this protest because of his disrespect for the national anthem and the flag. His error was in combining the actions of few errant police officers with America itself. People weren’t debating over what he was protesting over, it was the way he did it and how it disrespected the flag and national anthem coming across as unpatriotic. His mistake was connecting the mistreatment of minorities to the flag and all of american ideals along with the country as a whole and the national anthem. The flag stands for the American ideal, and when Americans in positions of power mistreat minorities, it’s not a failure of american ideals but a failure to live up to them. Showing pride in the flag does not mean support for every political decision being made in America. “Renditions of the national anthem at sporting events, especially after events such as 9/11, have become a rallying point for the country.” “In the case of the national anthem, its presence is political because it defines a game in terms of nationalism, suggesting that a sporting event is an appropriate place to affirm the principles that bind Americans together as a people. By contrast, its absence, or a protest against its presence, is political because it calls those very principles into question.” Colin Kaepernick’s protest was unsuccessful because he disrespected and offended many people and although people may agree with his underlying message, the way he went about protesting is what upset people and made people react to the way he protested, not bringing attention to the message he hoped to get across which was the mistreatment of minorities in America.

Nike made an ad with Kaepernick after his protest, and there were many mixed views on it. The ad basically had a lot of athletes and influential people saying to stand up for what you believe in, and Nike supported Kaepernick after many brands did not because of the controversy. It’s a balancing act for influential people that hasn’t ever really been successful, the brand and person are using each other for opposing goals. Kaepernick has been forced to sacrifice for trying to get his message across about racial injustice and nike, the company, wants to profit from the fact that racial injustice exists. Once Kaepernick isn’t as important in the media and his message isn’t profitable anymore, Nike probably wouldn’t keep him around.

Although Colin’s protest offended many people and was found unsuccessful by many, some people believe that his protest was successful because it sparked conversation, and it’s time and place was on purpose. In an article The Guardian wrote on Kaepernick’s protest, they wrote ”But while it may be inelegant to refer to them as “anthem protests”, it is not inaccurate. The time and place of the protest was chosen deliberately. The flag and the anthem are not the reasons for the protest, but their symbolism is the target. “I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed,” Kaepernick said in the initial explanation of his protest. “When there’s significant change and I feel that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”” Also, the protest is under the first amendment right: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. The protests are a patriotic act, “I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up, or take a knee, for your rights, anytime, anywhere, or any place,” Representative Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic challenger to Senator Ted Cruz, said recently.”

Protests have played a huge role in American history, and if a protest is done successfully, it might actually lead to change. Some successful protests are The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom 1963, The Delano Grape Boycott, and The Montgomery Bus Boycott. In the March on Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. and 200,000 supporters showed up at the Lincoln memorial and protested the racial inequality which kept african americans from getting the same rights as whites. This protest ultimately built support for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which protects against discrimination based on gender, race, color, religion, or ethnicity. The movement also built support and allowed for The Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibited racial discrimination in voting and successfully removed many barriers that states had used to keep African Americans from voting in elections. In The Delano Grape Boycott, Cesar Chavez advocated for peaceful protests, boycotts, and nonviolent hunger strikes which led to legislative changes to end exploitative abuse of America’s Farm workers. He led a 5 year strike in california which accumulated over 2,000 farmers to demand minimum wage for underpaid and overworked farmworkers. This led to more than 17 million Americans to boycott California grapes, which led to secure unions and better wages and safer work for farmers. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was another successful protest that led to change.. In Montgomery Alabama when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus, her defiant act symbolized greater civil rights, and spread the message that all people deserved seats that were equal. A year later in 1956, segregation was ruled unconstitutional by the US supreme court. These protests were successful because they were peaceful and done in a way that was not disruptive or offensive to others. By carrying out protests peacefully, people such as Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King, and Rosa Parks were able to make a progressive change.

The increasing trend of erosion of national pride and integrity has resulted in many violent protests which have overall been unsuccessful and offensive to many people. Protesting has been such a huge factor in US history and has made America what it is today. However, in order for a protest to be successful, it has to appeal to more than one specific group and also actually lead to change. The Colin Kaepernick protest against police brutality and racial inequality was not successful because of the way he went about it. The issues of time, place, and manner are the most important points to consider. In Kaepernick’s case, by protesting by sitting down during the national anthem before an NFL game, many people viewed this negatively because some believed it disrespected the flag and principles which bind americans together. If Colin would have chosen a different way to protest, such as a way that did not show disrespect towards America and many people, more people would have talked about the issues he was actually protesting for, and not the negative way he did it.