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Do Black Veterans Matter? : Colin Kaepernick and the Hypocrisy of Critics

Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick

In 2016, former 49ers player Colin Kaepernick began to take a knee during the national anthem at games, in order to protest the killings and beatings of innocent unarmed Black and Brown individuals at the hands of the police.



In a press conference Kaepernick stated “I’m not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people, and people of color.”

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Although criticism heightened as more players joined the protest, it was Trump’s recent speech at a political rally in Alabama, that truly stirred the pot. “We’re proud of our country. We respect our flag. Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say get that son of a bitch off the field, right now, out? He’s fired.” He later amplified this sentiment on Twitter by adding:






His comments sent the U.S into frenzy. While many, including NFL owners themselves expressed their disappointment with Trump, others agreed with the president, arguing that kneeling is a disrespect to U.S veterans who put their lives on the line to fight for the liberty of our nation.

But where does the latter argument leave Black veterans?

In 2016 there were 2.15 million Black veterans in the U.S, which represented 11.6 percent of the entire veteran population.  These are individuals that stand at the intersection of being Black and serving in the military, many of whom experience racism within the military.

During the Civil War, the military was reluctant to enlist Black individuals due to the fear that Black soldiers would feel entitled to equality and justice once the war was over. As a matter of fact, the only time that Black individuals were allowed to join the military was when its death tolls began to rise and it lacked manpower. After the Civil War, Black veterans in the South were the targets of white violence. Many were inhibited from handling weapons, assaulted, driven from their homes, and in some cases, lynched in public.






During World War II, the condition of Black soldiers was still dire. Black soldiers were often segregated from their white counterparts and made to cook, dig graves, or be quartermasters. If they were sent into battle, their units were often poorly trained and lacked equipment.

After World War II, President Roosevelt signed the GI Bill into law, a bill that was to provide veterans with funds for housing, education, and unemployment insurance. However, Black veterans were excluded from receiving any of these benefits.

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“In 2016 there were 2.15 million Black veterans in the U.S, which represented 11.6 percent of the entire veteran population.  These are individuals that stand at the intersection of being Black and serving in the military, many of whom experience racism within the military.”




Today, the racism against Black service members has not ended. A 2017 study published by the military advocacy group Protect Our Defenders, found that Black service members are more “substantially more likely” than their white counterparts to be punished in four out of the five branches of U.S. Armed forces.

The study points out that the disparity is notable considering that white service members make up the majority of the military.

Because they stand at the intersection, Black veterans are the perfect example that fighting for justice and equality in your country does not negate your respect for that country. Black veterans have vowed to protect a nation that has consistently failed to protect their ‘Blackness’.

If critics are truly concerned about honoring all veterans, they would recognize that challenging the oppression of Black people is encompassed in that.

Contributor, The Liberal Advocate News

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