July 23, 2019 | 67° F

SHAH: Our views do not need to reflect president’s

Opinions Column: Wait, Was that Racist?

Before I wrote this piece, I thought to myself, "Does the world really need another article about this? Is this topic overdone?"

Answer: it’s not. 

Case in point: the President of the United States. I am about to try to dissect this controversy, but I need to emphasize that it is not intended to be liberal propaganda.

Okay, glad we’re on the same page now.

Colin Kaepernick debuted his now-infamous kneel during the national anthem on Aug. 14, explaining why in an exclusive interview a week afterward: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

Colin Kaepernick’s protest has ignited liberals and conservatives alike, with both sides trying to comprehend this conflict in American ideals — our worship of the flag and our simultaneous love for what the flag stands for. Kaepernick’s kneel, while a grand gesture of peaceful protest, enrages those who feel as though it is also a gesture of disrespect toward those who have fought for this country.

But the situation gained more traction when President Donald J. Trump decided to publicly condemn the protest during a rally in Alabama: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b**** off the field right now, out, ‘He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

It seems like every op-ed should tackle Kaepernick’s protest and its recent spike in controversy — while it was okay to passively observe people publicly drag Kaepernick’s protest throughout the 2016-2017 NFL season, it is impossible to ignore our own president’s words on the matter. One can easily claim that a journalist’s or a commentator’s opinion doesn’t matter and simply cast it aside, but as the leader of the free world, Trump’s opinion does hold a bit more weight. That needs to change.

People assume that since Trump has an opinion and that he is an important man, his opinion somehow means more.

It doesn’t. Trump is simply writing his own unfiltered op-ed, it is just more publicized than most.

Free speech is at the crux of America’s success as a free nation. And what is successful free speech? It is Kaepernick’s kneel. It is nonviolent, it is not intended to be disrespectful. Trump’s free speech, on the other hand, was disrespectful and alarming to hear from our president. It’s free speech, sure, but it is more abrasive than successful.

This is America. People have the right to believe what Kaepernick is doing is wrong. But that should not change the fact that Kaepernick has the right to keep doing it. If our president thinks he should be fired because of it, his opinion is allowed too — but it does not reflect American ideals. And his word is not law simply because he leads our country.

Throughout the 2016 election, Trump ran his campaign like it was a game he wanted to win — nothing more. But the second the media started taking him seriously, the public legitimized him as a presidential candidate. By spending so much time justifying outlandish perspectives, such as building the wall, we took time away from the qualified candidates with structured plans. We elected a president who gave news networks some juicy soundbites.

The media has incredible power, and with it comes an incredible responsibility to report news and filter out gossip. With print news dying and virtual news being a poor excuse of a savior, the urge to report clickbait is understandable but unacceptable. The public needs to hold media outlets to a higher standard simply because that is where we get our understanding of the world around us, and we need the actual facts rather than a marathon of tabloid-esque reports.

Trump’s ridiculous outburst of the day gets more media attention than my uncle’s rant on Facebook, which is what makes the incident virulent. Shock value isn’t enough of a qualification to be president, but it does make for an entertaining news cycle.

The facts? Colin Kaepernick’s protest is his constitutional right. Trump has condemned it. Trump is our president, but he does not speak for all of us, and he certainly does not single-handedly rule this country.

So, no, Steve Bannon, no one will be taking a knee and thanking God that Donald Trump is our President. Instead, we’ll be thanking God —  or whoever or whatever we want to thank — that we have the freedom to think otherwise. Our reporting of Trump is the very phenomenon that got him elected. If we’re not careful, it will be what gets him re-elected.

Anjali Shah is a Rutgers Business School first-year, double majoring in finance and political science. Her column, “Wait, Was that Racist?”, runs on alternate Fridays.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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Anjali Shah

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