Perpetuating the Norm

In the last few weeks, several professional athletes have followed the lead of Colin Kapernick to protest the disproportionately high number of Black folks who have been brutalized by police. They have knelt during the national anthem as a means of showing their concern and urgency to address the problem. Even President Obama supports their right to express disagreement. However, there is another aspect of these rightful displays that is rearing its ugly head: the power of capitalism to suppress any behavior that challenges the normalized view of what it means to be an American.
In an article today, Brandon Marshall decided to join the rightful protest,

After the game, he told reporters he had knelt because “I’m against social injustice. I’m not against the military, the police or America at all. I’m against social injustice.”
- via the Guardian

The response was not unexpected as the system always works to preserve itself:

The Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall has lost an endorsement from a sponsor after following Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback, in refusing to stand for the national anthem before an NFL game.
Air Academy Federal Credit Union president and chief executive Glenn Strebe said the company respected “Brandon’s right of expression” but would no longer employ him as a spokesman.
- via the Guardian

Follow the Money But Look Deeper Into the Imagined Nation

It is a common practice by companies in the U.S. to go with the money flow. We call it business ethics, focusing on profit above all else. Brandon Marshall’s act did not follow the quintessence of business ethics because it would cost the credit union investments from those who see his acts as “unpatriotic” and “un-American.” It is much more than a business decision, it is an act by the system to preserve the normalized, “imagined” nation described by Benedict Anderson in his book, “Imagined Communities”:

I propose the following definition of the nation: it is an imagined political community-and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign. It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion....

Anderson saw this normalization as a positive way of creating solidarity but that concept has devolved into a means to suppress the very thing to which it aspired. In the same article, Roger Goodell commented about Colin Kaepernick’s rightful act, and conforming to the normalized model, he implies that Kaepernick’s action was unpatriotic:

“On the other hand, we believe very strongly in patriotism in the NFL. I personally believe very strongly in that. I think it’s important to have respect for our country, for our flag, for the people who make our country better; for law enforcement, and for our military who are out fighting for our freedoms and our ideals.”
- via the Guardian

The impact of Brandon Marshall’s experience can already be seen:

Von Miller, the Broncos’ Super Bowl MVP linebacker, said after Thursday’s game that though he was “not going to kneel for the national anthem” he felt “it should be a change”.
- via the Guardian

There are many in this country who “feel things should be changed” but do not voice those thoughts, perhaps because of fear of financial or status loss. How many others are thinking the same way as Von Miller?

This post is not meant to be a detailed examination of the reasons why a normalized model exists in this country, who benefits from it, and all the ways it is perpetuated. Instead, it is meant to stimulate thinking about why it is so important to have an imaginary picture of what it means to be “American."

“Cows have a sense of freedom…until they encounter the fence around the pasture.” Me

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