By Elizabeth G. & Nathan N., members of OUSD Honor Band
On September 25, 2017, most members of the Oakland Unified School District Honor Band knelt in protest to play the National Anthem before an Oakland A’s game. It was the second time they did it. This is the explanation of their protest in the words of two student-musicians:
Beginning with the San Francisco 49ers former quarterback, Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest during the National Anthem last year, the Anthem has become highly politicized. Kaepernick’s silent protest evolved into a national movement drawing attention to marginalized people that have been cast aside by federal policies and fighting for people of color who have no voice, particularly those disproportionately killed by law enforcement. The movement has also become a conversation about freedom of speech.
Already this year, many players, coaches, and others in the National Football League and at least one player in Major League Baseball have joined the protest. On September 25th, most students in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) Honor Band took a knee while playing the National Anthem at an Oakland A’s game.
The band kneeled to protest police brutality and the ending of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or DACA, and to fight to exercise our right to free speech. This is the second time we in the OUSD Honor Band have expressed our frustration with the federal government. Last year, the majority of the band kneeled while playing the National Anthem before another A’s game.
After President Trump’s hostile and profane comments directed at NFL players who kneeled during the playing of the National Anthem, many other players have joined the protest. In defense of the movement, Eric Reid, one of Colin Kaepernick’s former teammates said, “What baffles me is that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel. We chose it because it’s exactly the opposite.”
We agree. We kneel not to disrespect our country, the flag or the armed forces. We are grateful and feel blessed to live in this amazing country. But no country is perfect. We kneel because America is supposed to be a place where all people can speak their minds, point out flaws, and create positive change. Those of us who are lucky enough to have a voice must use it to better the lives of everyone.
As students in public schools, we know how important education is. Five days a week all over Oakland, California more than 49,000 students of different races, religions, sexual orientations, genders, political viewpoints, and socioeconomic backgrounds come together with a common goal of learning. We can all agree the right to public education should not be taken away from anyone, and is part of what makes this country great.
That is why when the Trump administration decided to end DACA in six months and deny almost 800,000 people an education or chance to work, we could not stand by and do nothing.
People protected by DACA plan to be or are already part of our education system, our military, small and large businesses and many other institutions that benefit America. To deny them these opportunities is wrong.
They are just as American as we are, and benefit our nation just as much as we do. Deporting them will not improve our economy or lower the unemployment rate. It only splits up families and denies many an opportunity that should be available to everyone.
These people, who were all brought to this country as children without choice, work everyday through the struggle of being non-citizens in a unwelcoming American society. Many know America as their only home and English as their only language.
This is not about Republicans and Democrats. This is not about Obama or Trump. This is not about fake news or politics. This is not even about the laws of the United States of America.
This is simply a matter of human decency. To have access to an education or opportunity to work in the only country they know as home should be a human right.
This is why we kneel.